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Elegies - A Song Cycle by William Finn Cast Recording

4.6 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Cast Recording, June 24, 2003
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

William Finn's career in the musical theater is pretty remarkable considering that he doesn't write traditional show tunes--much less traditional shows. But Finn has a gift for catchy melodies and his emotionally engaging work has a way of intimately connecting with audiences (during the initial run of Elegies, hardened New Yorkers could be seen trying to hide their tears). Though no storyline links these songs, they are united by the underlining idea of loss; in turn funny, tender, witty, biting and quietly devastating, they form a unified tapestry. Musically, Finn can turn out perky little numbers and powerful ballads--"Anytime (I Am There)" could conceivably be a hit if some contemporary pop diva did it. Led by Betty Buckley and Carolee Carmello, the cast is completely in sync with the material. Some of the narrative-heavy pieces recall Michel Legrand's sung-through work (and there are Legrand-like flourishes on "Monica & Mark"), but in the end Finn is very much his own man: There's nobody quite like him in the American musical-theater world, and Elegies just brings more evidence of that. --Elisabeth Vincentelli

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Looking Up Quintet
  2. Mister Choi & Madame G
  3. Mark's All-Male Thanksgiving
  4. Only One
  5. Joe Papp
  6. Peggy Hewitt & Mysty del Giorno
  7. Passover
  8. Infinite Joy
  9. The Ballad of Jack Eric Williams (And Other 3-Named Composers)
  10. Monica & Mark
  11. Anytime (I Am There)
  12. My Dogs
  13. Venice
  14. 14 Dwight Ave., Natick, Massachusetts
  15. When the Earth Stopped Turning
  16. Goodbye/Boom Boom
  17. Looking Up
  18. Goodbye (Finale)


Product Details

  • Audio CD (June 24, 2003)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Cast Recording
  • Label: Varese Sarabande
  • ASIN: B00009V7TL
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #76,187 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
I was initially concerned that an entire score about the passing of loved ones would be painful and dreary. And don't get me wrong, I like painful and dreary, but not for an entire cd. So I was greatly relieved when I listened to Elegies for the first time. I had already heard Anytime (I am There), Infinite Joy, and Turning on the Infinite Joy cd, so it's lovely to hear that the rest of the score lives up to those numbers, with the possible exception of the song about the dogs. The cast is vocally strong, and their passion comes through on the recording. Standouts are Keith Byron Kirk on "Mr Choi and Madame G", and with Carolee Carmello on "Goodbye", Betty Buckley on "14 Dwight Ave., Natick Massachussetts, Carolee on "Anytime" and "Passover", Michael Rupert on "Mark's All-Male Thanksgiving" and Christian Borle on "Turning". Overall, Elegies celebrates the lives of the departed with joy and light, and most importantly, the idea that life goes on.
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Format: Audio CD
A friend has been pushing Finn's work at me for a while now, especially extracts from Putnam County Spelling Bee and Elegies. I finally ordered the Elegies CD (from Amazon), received it and have listened to it a few times now, some tracks more often than others. The concept of the cycle is wonderful, and as many others have stated, one is left with an ache that somehow contains optimism. Each song is a polished gem, though some shine more than others. I would have to list "Dogs" as a low point, and "Mark and Monica" as the high point for me. All 6 performers are wonderful-----the 5 singers and the amazing pianist. As a pianist myself, I can hear how much work went into preparing to play this music, and feel that the gentleman is not given enough credit.

The most haunting moments (for me) occur when ensemble singing is heard, such as the opening quintet, the wordless male trio interludes in "Mark and Monica", and the finale. The vocal writing at these moments is absolutely brilliant, taking advantage of each singer's strong points.

My only criticism (and it is perhaps just that I am unused to Finn's aesthetic) is that everything is is so self-referential. We do not have the memories that he does of his family and friends, and although these songs bring them to life for us to some extent, they are impressionistic portraits drawn from a cohesive whole that only he knows deeply. Writing this cycle must have been very cathartic for Finn.

That said, I am sure that repeated listenings of this work will allow me to hear things that are as yet not noticed. It would also be wonderful to see a live performance of Elegies, adding a new dimension to the overall experience.

Bottom line, then: Bravo, Mr. Finn! Thanks for sharing your world and the people it contain(ed).
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Format: Audio CD
William Finn's new songcycle is the most incredible compilation of songs written in my recent memory. There is not a song work skipping on this CD. It will make you laugh, cry, and everything in between. Finn's songs are just right, never tear-jerking or corny. Exceptional songs on this CD are "Mister Choi & Madame G," Carolee Carmello's beautiful and hilarious renditions of "Passover" and "Anytime," Betty Buckley's moving "Infinite Joy" and my personal favorite, the hilarious and just sooo cute "My Dogs." It seems silly to say which songs are my favorite because they are each so good. If you have any appreciation in music of any kind, this CD should be added to your collection.
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Format: Audio CD
This is my first William Finn CD. Honestly, I haven't heard yet Falsettoland, Mach of F., A New Brain, and Infinite Joy. I am hearing William Finn's songs for the first time. I have to say that the CD is a mix bag of songs, some are perfectly hummable, some are on the "irregular" side (focusing on intent and meaning). However, the power of the songs cannot be denied. It is nice to hear though that despite the diversity of the songs, they are very connected with each other. For instance, the shift from Looking Up, to "mister choi", and later on towards "mark's all-male thanksgiving" is very clear. The emotions and the sincerity of the songs are supported by the honest delivery of the singers like Carollee Carmello, Keith Byron Kirk; Michael Rupert, and Betty Buckley. Though Betty Buckley may sound shrill on some parts of Infinite Joy, it is quite forgivable. After all, she is a very good character singer. Her version of "Only One" is a must-hear for all teachers who are on the verge of questioning their profession's worth. The CD liner notes put it correctly, the songs express celebration of life.
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Format: Audio CD
I'm a big fan of William Finn and this show reaches the level that I have come to expect from Finn. Many of the songs are stories about very specific characters in a very specific context. The conversational style of the lyrics really helps the characters come to life and is one of my favorite characteristics of Finn's work. Probably the only two songs that lend themselves to a more general application are Infinite Joy and Anytime, both also great songs. Though the theme of this show is celebrating the lives of people Finn has known, and whom you might recognize (Joe Papp), some characters are fictional (Mr. Choi).
I really love the Monica and Mark storyline (Mark's All-Male Thanksgiving, Monica and Mark, and Anytime) and these are my favorite songs on the album. The song Monica and Mark especially gets me and I love how it incorporates motifs from the other two songs. The first time I was listening to this album, I had to just stop what I was doing and devote my full attention to this song. I just love the "da da da da da da" sections. The setup for Anytime is perfect and made me cry. I think I like Anytime better on the "Infinite Joy" album, but that could be because I'm used to it.
I also enjoy the storyline about Finn's mother, especially 14 Dwight Ave. I really like Mr. Choi (especially "Looking in the window...") and Finn has said that it is his favorite song on the album, along with Only One. Passover and My Dogs make me smile. I like the music to Joe Papp, but I'm not crazy about the simple lyrics ("Joe Papp never took crap"). I love the song Infinite Joy, but I prefer Liz Callaway's version on the "Infinite Joy" album (I adore Liz Callaway).
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