Though his name may not be a household word among American composers, to singers the lieder of John Woods Duke are a staple of the recital repertoire. A composer well respected in his lifetime (1899 - 1984), his 265 catalogued songs are the epitome of the marriage of text and music. His musical style never veered from melodic but his integration of poetry with his expressive understanding of the voice places him in the same category with Ives, Griffes, Rorem, Barber, Heggie et al.
This fine recital by soprano Lauralyn Kolb, a former student of the highly regarded Howard Swan of Occidental College and a sought after oratorio soloist and recitalist, with pianist Tina Toglia is a study in musical intelligence. Kolb's soprano voice is beautifully focused and her communication of the texts ranging from ee cummings, Emily Dickinson, Elinor Wylie, Sarah Teasdale, Robert Frost, Richard Nickson, Mark Van Doren to James Joyce is pristine and warmly sensitive. Her collaboration with Toglia demonstrates the way musicians should approach the art song. There are many excellent songs in this collection that could be singled out, but the pleasure of the recital is that the variety selected by the artists is very satisfying for a survey of works by a relatively unknown (to the public) composer. Recommended. Grady Harp, January 06