Actually, all of the music on this CD is harmony driven, which is not to say that it lacks momentum; there is a sense of pulse and a narrative quality to all of this material.
But the essential character of the music comes through in the vertical part of the score, more so than the horizontal dimension, and, again, it is easy to imagine the influence of Manno's' choral work in this quality of his writing...
Three Poems is scored for two violins and piano, a combination designed to achieve a conversational quality, especially between the violins. The piece is similar in mood and conception to the trio "A Mountain Path," with the second violin replaced by a cello... Manno certainly achieves a personal voice in these two works for three instruments, but I am reminded of the fairy-tale allusions to Czech music by Janácek and Martinu, as well as the structural simplicity of the American Minimalists, including Reich and Glass.
Manno's poetry settings are also successful, displaying an expansive, well-rounded sense of architecture and shape, a welcome relief to those contemporary song-composers who allow the verse to meander as if at will...
The performers on this lovely disc are mainly Met colleagues of the composer. All of the instrumentalists are members of the superb Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and the two vocalists are up-and-coming youngsters who have performed on the big Met stage.
The sound they make is luminous and focused, and serves this rich and lyrical music well."
Excerpts from Fanfare Review
Robert Manno was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania in 1944. His parents introduced him to music through the study of violin, piano and voice. After graduation from Haverford High School, he attended Temple University, the Granoff School of Music, and the Combs College of Music, and performed intermittently in the Philadelphia area as a jazz pianist. He first studied composition with Romeo Cascarino in 1964, then moved to New York City in 1965 and began writing music in 1966. He studied jazz piano with John Mehegan and Steve Kuhn, and composition with Vladimir Padwa. During this period he was torn between becoming a lieder singer, a jazz pianist or a composer. He then decided to continue his composition studies at the 28th Annual Composers Conference in Johnson, Vermont with Donald Erb and Mario Davidovsky.
Manno holds an undergraduate degree in voice from the Manhattan School of Music and an MA in music composition from New York University. He was a member of the Metropolitan Opera Chorus from 1977 to 2001, and was previously a member of the New York City Opera Chorus. He was also a baritone soloist appearing in recital, chamber music programs, and with companies such as the Westchester Symphony Orchestra and the Alvin Ailey Dance Company. In 2002, Manno served as a part-time assistant conductor on the music staff of the Metropolitan Opera.
As a composer, he has been awarded the Ernest Bloch Award for "This is the Garden" for a cappella chorus, First Prize at the Delius Festival for "Birdsongs" for soprano and violin, and many Meet the Composer Grants and ASCAP Awards. His music has been performed in New York City, St. Paul and Los Angeles; as well as in Florida, Vermont, Texas and throughout New York State. He is the founder of the Windham Chamber Music Festival, an annual concert series in Windham, New York.
Sextet for Strings
A Mountain Path
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