“I’ve been listening to these four discs with wonderment, admiration, and delight. Jan DeGaetani (1933-90) was a mezzo-soprano with a unique voice, range of repertoire, and persona. She never appeared in opera, knowing that her skills were best suited to the recital stage, and there she reigned supreme in contemporary works, though she also sang much of the standard 19thand early 20th century literature in any number of languages, with equal success in all of them. Her voice was small, light, and exquisitely pure, with perfect intonation, intelligently used for effective communication with her audiences, always with great understanding. She could vary its quality and volume at will, offering an astonishing array of colors and timbres for everything from the rich warmth needed for 19th century Romantic music to the raucous squawks required by some modern material.
The nine varied Ives songs and Crumb’s mysterious settings of texts about death from Whitman’s “When Lilacs Last in the Doorway Bloom’d” (written for the singer, with her long-time partner Gilbert Kalish providing expert accompaniments), in spite of their strange dissonances, are as sweet and evocative as if they were Schubert lieder.”