An MTSU School of Music professor’s new CD release, featuring university colleagues performing poetry set to his compositions, is earning recognition from some of the industry’s most prestigious media.
“Franchetti Songs” is a two-volume collaboration showcasing MTSU composer Michael Linton’s music and Italian American polymath Cody Franchetti’s poetry with voice and piano performances.
The first volume showcases seven songs performed by MTSU voice professor H. Stephen Smith, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and a renowned tenor, and former MTSU composition instructor and staff pianist David See. The duo premiered the seven pieces at Carnegie Hall in 2015.
The second presents the Linton-Franchetti collaboration with French bass-baritone Edwin Crossley-Mercer and pianist Jason Paul Peterson on nine more compositions, which they premiered at Carnegie Hall last June.
Audio engineering professor Michael Fleming of the Department of Recording Industry, who’s worked with Linton on additional projects, recorded, engineered and mastered the Franchetti CD.
A preview of the Smith-See performances, which includes the poetry translations and sheet music, is available above.
The Metropolitan Opera Guild’s magazine, Opera News, said in a recent edition that the “Franchetti Songs” collection is “not to be missed.”
Reviewer Arlo McKinnon praised the first CD’s music as “gracefully delivered by the fine spinto tenor H. Stephen Smith. Even in extended higher register passages, Smith sings with effortless warmth, counterbalancing the sometimes aloof-if-impassioned texts and vocal lines. Smith is sensitively accompanied by pianist David See, who also favors a warm approach.”
He had similar praise for the second volume, noting Crossley-Mercer’s “regally beautiful and sonorous voice … expertly accompanied by pianist … Peterson.”
Forum Opéra, the acclaimed French multimedia outlet focusing on opera and bel canto music, offered similar compliments for the collection of tenor and bass-baritone performances with piano accompaniment.
“We now dream of hearing works composed by Michael Linton for still other voices, and even — but the necessary financial means would obviously be more important — for several instruments, even for orchestra,” critic Laurent Bury wrote in his summer 2019 review.
Linton, a Bach scholar who teaches music theory and composition, first heard about Franchetti while working with a financial analysis podcast, then visited his website and read his translation of a poem by Edwardian-era Italian writer Dino Campana.
The MTSU professor was working at the time on setting another Italian poet’s work to music — Catullus, a contemporary of Julius Caesar’s — that became his first song cycle, “Carmina Catulli.”
Linton asked Franchetti if he could set the modern Campana translation to music, then asked for other poetry. Franchetti complied with original works, and their collaboration clicked, leading to the Franchetti Songs collection.
“A poet’s poem is a finished thing, complete in and of itself; a musician cannot ‘enhance’ it, he can only make it something different from what left the poet’s hand,” Linton wrote of their partnership.
“Setting the words of dead poets is a bit like grave robbing; the deceased cannot defend his property, and you’re free to loot at will. But using the poetry of a living poet is a very different matter, and allowing a composer to set your work — even when the right to do so is purchased — is an extraordinary act of artistic generosity.”
“Franchetti Songs” is Linton’s third release of song cycles; the inaugural Catullus CD was followed in 2018 by “Wilde Songs,” a collection of the legendary writer Oscar Wilde’s poetry.
The professor also has two more CDs in the works: a collection of solo soprano performances focusing on texts about separation and a CD of instrumental chamber music.
The “Franchetti Songs” CD package is available, along with more of Linton’s work and that of several of his MTSU School of Music colleagues, from the record label he co-founded, Refinersfire. The website is http://refinersfiremusic.com.
For more information about MTSU’s School of Music in the College of Liberal Arts, visit www.mtsumusic.com.
— Gina E. Fann (firstname.lastname@example.org)