Mottetti di Montale

John Harbison gives his 1980 work for mezzo-soprano and piano, Mottetti di Montale, a makeover on his newest CD with the Collage New Music under music director David Hoose. The work, based on the poetry of Eugenio Montale, is here transformed into a 56-minute piece for chamber ensemble broken up into four books (20 tracks total). Montale’s somber stories of lost love are set in Italy; think empty gondolas and lonely Italian streets. Two mezzo-sopranos, Janice Felty and Margaret Lattimore, split up the role of Clizia, Montale’s heroine and literary muse. They bring intensity and precision to this creation without being harsh. Somehow the two manage to match each other well enough that the changeover is hardly noticeable, yet their performances retain individuality. The nine-piece chamber ensemble adds layers and depth to the piano version, highlighting Harbison’s sophisticated style and talent for wholesome wind writing.