Unpublished Songs on Poetical Texts

Vincent Persichetti


Poetry by Hilaire Belloc, e e cummings, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, James Joyce, Carl Sandburg, Sara Teasdale, and others

World Premiere Recordings



“[Persichetti's] music is always interesting, and is well worth becoming familiar with... The performances are strong, and I have to give special mention to the superb pianist Joshua Pierce, who provides the perfect accompaniment. Both singers, soprano Sherry Overholt and baritone Lee Velta, are fine and expressive, accurately expressing the emotional content of each song. This is a beautifully presented disc of music that, alas, we seldom hear."
Music & Vision [February 2017]
“[Overholt and Velta] are worthy interpreters of these songs. Their diction is laudably clear... Pierce’s piano collaboration is first-rate.”
Moore, American Record Guide [September/October 2016]
“The most expeditious way to appreciate Vincent Persichetti: Legacy of Songs is, first, to read the poems on which the 41 songs are based, a task made easy by the inclusion of the texts in the album’s liner notes. Second, read along to the poems as the operatic baritone Lee Velta or the lyric soprano Sherry Overholt sing them... You’ll also be able to concentrate on Joshua Pierce’s pianism without losing the musically thematic ties that bind his playing to the words. Having reached this stage, appreciation will yield to enjoyment, and enjoyment will yield to a fuller appreciation of the puckish wisdom of Persichetti’s sources (Dickinson, Cummings, Teasdale, Frost, Joyce, Sandburg, and various Chinese and Japanese poets). Then there’s Hilaire Belloc’s Christocentic “Thou Child So Wise,” which transcends appreciation and enjoyment altogether.”
Arsenio Orteza, World [September 2016]
[ + + + + ] “The recording is lovely, with the voices centered and just a bit of dimension of the soundstage for the piano... MSR Classics is to be congratulated for sharing these unpublished works that further confirm Persichetti’s versatility and abundant musical talent.”
Mel Martin, Audiophile Audition [July 2016]
"Velta and Overholt both handle the music skillfully and with careful control and considerable sensitivity, and Pierce’s pianism is exemplary throughout."
Mark J. Estren, InfoDad [June 2016]
“The music on this disc is first-rate and is unavailable elsewhere. For that reason I give the recording an enthusiastic recommendation.... Joshua Pierce’s accompaniments are skillful and sensitive—virtually ideal renditions of the music... I strongly encourage readers to become acquainted with these songs.
Myron Silberstein, Fanfare [May/June 2016]

Vincent Persichetti (1915-1987) was one of the most important members of the group of American composers born before World War I who came to define an American symphonic school. He wrote nine symphonies, more than a dozen works for concert band, instrumental “Parables” and “Serenades”, 12 piano sonatas as well as many other keyboard works. Not surprisingly, we think of him as a symphonic and instrumental composer; but this is not entirely accurate. His “Hymns and Responses for the Church Year” have become standard material for church choirs. And his song settings for voice and piano – mostly on texts by American poets and often in cycles or sets – have played a major role in defining the American art song as a genre in its own right.

The first recording in this series featured his major work in this genre: the song cycle Harmonium, his Op.50 settings of poems by Wallace Stevens, performed by Sherry Overholt and Joshua Pierce [MSR Classic MS1432]. This second volume picks up all the remainder of the composer’s solo songs, 41 in all. There are a few English poets in the mix: James Joyce, Hilaire Belloc (who was actually Anglo-French), three 17th century English poets, as well as translations from the Chinese and Japanese. All the rest of the poets were American.

As with much of his other work, Persichetti composed his songs not only in sets, but in sets of sets. The 17th century English settings came out in 1957 and his Op.115 set of translation settings of Japanese haiku in 1970. The two e e cummings Songs, Op.26, and the Chinese Songs, Op.29, both appeared in 1945. His big song-setting year was 1951 with no fewer than six consecutive sets (Op.72-77) dating from that year.

Soprano Sherry Overholt maintains a busy schedule as a performer and teacher. She gained a special affinity for contemporary song through her studies with Phyllis Curtin, a noted soprano with the Metropolitan Opera in New York and champion of that genre. Curtin mentored Overholt as a fellow artist at the Tanglewood Festival for two seasons and as a Master’s and Doctoral student at Yale University. Her operatic credits include numerous performances with the Glimmerglass, Kentucky, Sarasota and Virginia opera companies in leading roles, including Violetta, Gilda, Zerlina, Marzelline and Musetta. She premiered the title role of Mordeen in Frank Lewin’s opera Burning Bright to great national and international acclaim, and subsequently recorded the opera for Albany Records. As an operatic recitalist, Overholt has performed in more than 300 concerts spanning ten seasons with the Columbia Artists’ Community Concert series. Her orchestral highlights include performances with the Philadelphia Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra, Portland Symphony Orchestra, and five seasons with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. She currently is the Director of Vocal Studies at the Aaron Copland School of Music, Associate Professor at Purchase College Conservatory, founder and Artistic Director of the Westchester Summer Vocal Institute and Queens Summer Vocal Institute for high school students. Overholt received her Masters, Master of Musical Arts and DMA degrees from Yale University.

Baritone Lee Velta has sung more than 50 operatic roles with such opera companies as San Francisco Opera, Opera Theater of St. Louis, Santa Fe Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Opera Pacific, Florentine Opera and Wolf Trap Opera. Velta’s repertoire extends from bel canto to Verdi, including Marcello, Escamillo, Enrico, Renato, Amonasro, Di Luna, Germont, Don Giovanni, the Count, Figaro, Ford, Dr. Falke, Valentin and Wolfram. Numerous performances can be seen on YouTube. He studied at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria, and the Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Program. A versatile artist, Velta has notable performance credits that include premieres, oratorios, operettas, pops concerts and recital tours worldwide, including national concert performances with Columbia Artists’ Community Concerts. He has performed at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco and Carnegie Hall. Velta’s awards include the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Eleanor Steber Music Foundation Vocal Competition, William M. Sullivan Foundation Grant and the McAllister Award. He has appeared in several televised operas, radio broadcasts and five recordings, including the leading baritone role Joe Saul in Frank Lewin’s opera Burning Bright. Velta performed the research in preparation for this disc, which features unpublished songs by Vincent Persichetti.

Pianist Joshua Pierce has been heard in many of the world’s prestigious music centers, including New York’s Alice Tully Hall, Symphony Space, 92nd St. Y, Steinway Hall, Carnegie and Weill Recital Hall, Merkin Hall and Knitting Factory; and at Orchestra Hall in Chicago. He has appeared internationally in the Czech Republic, England, Italy, Korea, Mexico, Norway, Russia, Slovakia and Switzerland. Pierce has performed with orchestras throughout the United States, Europe, Asia and South America. A highly prolific recording artist, he has recorded more than 230 works, including numerous premieres as a soloist and with orchestra, for more than a dozen labels. His recordings of the complete piano concertos of Beethoven, Brahms, Gershwin and Liszt figure prominently among his recorded output. As a member of Pierce & Jonas Piano Duo, he and Ms. Jonas have performed worldwide and premiered and recorded concertos by highly regarded American and European composers, including Rozsa, Tansman, Malipiero, Piston, Creston, Harris, Starer and Gould. A strong proponent of contemporary music, Pierce maintained a 30-year association with John Cage, giving many premiere performances and releasing landmark recordings of his work. Pierce studied with Vincent Persichetti at Dartmouth College on a scholarship, and later at Juilliard, where he collaborated on two major works with the composer: his Two-Piano Sonata, Op.13, and Piano Sonata, Op.101. Highly regarded as a chamber musician and collaborative pianist, Pierce studied with cellists Bernard Greenhouse of the Beaux Arts Trio and Jascha Silberstein, as well as with pianists Arthur Loesser and Artur Balsam. He has performed with numerous chamber musicians and ensembles, and at the Music Mountain Chamber Music Festival and Phillips Collection. Pierce has several Grammy nominations to his credit, as well as a Diapason Award, Fono Forum Award, German Music Critic’s Prize, and was a nominee for an International Franz Liszt Grand Prix du Disque award for his recordings of music by the composer. He was awarded the Grand Prize of the IBLA International Competition for Contemporary Music and an Aaron Copland Fund for Music grant. An experienced adjudicator of piano competitions, Pierce has also worked with the American Chamber Orchestra Violin Competition, New York International Center for Contemporary Opera and has served for years on the International Fulbright Commission.
[ ]
Doll’s boy’s asleep
The moon is hiding in her hair

(Translations by Arthur Waley)
All Alone
These Days

My Mistress (Richard Brathwaite)
Serenade (Aphra Behn)
Now sleep, and Take Thy Rest (James Mabbe)

Central Park at Dusk
Let It Be Forgotten
A June Day
There will be stars

Mill Doors

Unquiet Heart
Brigid’s Song
Noise of Waters

Thou Child So Wise

Dust of Snow
The Pasture

Out of the Morning
I’m Nobody
When the Hills Do
The Grass

(Translation from the Japanese by H. Steward)
Waking at an Inn (Muso Soseki)
The Pavilion on the Lake (Rimpû)
With Sharpened Senses (Matsuo Bashô)
Four Magpies (Hô-ô)
A Whiteness (Kagami Shiko)
Noon (Taniguchi Buson or Yosa)
The Carp (Konishi Raizan)
The Faun (Kobayashi Issa)
Hypothesis [a Zen Paradox]
Summer Grasses (Matsuo Bashô)
Paper Wings (Hô-ô)
Its Netted Trail (Hô-ô)
Beneath the Net (credited to Buson-Sôgyo)
Firefly (Matsuo Bashô)
After the Death of Her Small Son (Chiyo)
Dewdrop (Kobayashi Issa)
The Black Cat’s Face (Hô-ô)

MSR Classics