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Rorem: Chamber Music - The End of Summer, Book of Hours, Bright Music

5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Audio CD, February 18, 2003
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Product Details

  • Composer: Ned Rorem
  • Audio CD (February 18, 2003)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos American Classics
  • Run Time: 60 minutes
  • ASIN: B000088DUH
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #296,250 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
Many people know too little about the cultural achievements of Americans. This is particularly the case in the area of art ("classical")music, perhaps because American popular music in its many varieties has captured the imagination of much of the world. The Naxos Company, which specializes in inexpensive, innovative recordings of classical music has been producing a series titled "American Classics" with the aim of making American music available to the public at a low price. This is an altogether commendable aim. It is valuable both because it encourages the exploration of classical music and also because it encourages an appreciation of American creativity.
This disc of chamber music by Ned Rorem (b. 1923) is an outstanding addition to the series. Rorem is both a composer and a writer, best known for his art songs. (A collection of Rorem's songs is available on another Naxos disc in this series.) The performers are a group of seven young British musicians who call themselves the "Fibonacci sequence".
There are three pieces on the CD dating from 1975 through 1987. The first piece, "The End of Summer" consists of three movements and was written in 1985. It is scored for clarinet, violin, and piano. The most striking aspects of this music are the long declamatory passage for solo violin which opens the piece, and the lyrical secondary themes that appear in the first and third movement. The music does indeed have a yearning, autumnal quality.
The second piece on the disc, the "Book of Hours" was written in 1975 and is scored for flute and harp. It consists of 8 short movements. This music reminded me of Rorem's songs.
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Format: Audio CD
Ned Rorem (b. 1923) is one of our most distinguished composers, perhaps best known for his songs; certainly he is one of the finest composers we have when it comes to word-setting. But this disc is given over to chamber works, and a fine disc it is; it features the British chamber group Fibonacci Series, which consists of seven instrumentalists (led by violinist Jonathan Carney, brother of the American String Quartet's second violinist, Laurie Carney).
"End of Summer" (for clarinet, violin and piano (1985), in three movements: Capriccio, Fantasy, Mazurka) starts with a declamatory cadenza for unaccompanied violin that seems to be notifying us that an important announcement is about to be made. But shortly after the clarinet and piano enter we are taken to a world of pastiche (and of memory) that includes old hymns, children's songs, snippets of faux-Satie. In the 'Fantasy' we enter an autumnal mood, with some late Brahmsian use of the clarinet, in which there seems to be rueful recollection of times past. 'Mazurka' is a lively old-fashioned folk-dance, alternately contrasted with an elegant waltz. Toward the end two dances jostle for primacy and finally disappear into thin air. "End of Summer" is a delightful suite that deserves some real popularity.
"Book of Hours" (flute and harp, 1975) is a collection of eight pieces reflecting each of the canonical hours designated for daily prayer. 'Matins' opens quietly and at mid-way reverses itself (a palindrome) to end as it began; it is echoed in the final 'Compline.' 'Lauds' is a vigorous eye-opener (Lauds comes at sunrise). 'Prime' (6am) is a dreamlike meditation of harp glissandi with flute wheeling above.
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I love Mr. Rorem's work, and will cherish this American Classics release for many years to come!
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Format: Audio CD
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