"No living composer has produced a larger or more impressive body of songs." - CHICAGO TRIBUNE
This is the definitive album of the early songs of Ned Rorem and arguably the greatest collection of American art songs ever recorded. Recorded by Columbia Records with the composer at the piano. First time on CD, with completely refurbished sound. Rorem's first major album--one that catapulted him into the national classical music spotlight when it was originally released in January 1964! Electrifying performances by the greatest soloists of the day. Superb poetry by a range of writers from Robert Herrick, John Dryden, and Ben Jonson to Gertrude Stein, Elizabeth Bishop, and Theodore Roethke. Decades ago, Time magazine called Ned Rorem (b. 1923) "the world's best composer of art songs," and few have challenged that judgment since. Although he has written exceptionally fine orchestral music, his songs and choral pieces seem destined to remain his best-known legacy, in part because they are so performer-friendly. Singers love to sing his songs, and church choirs find his choral works exceptionally satisfying. Uniquely, Rorem became just as famous for his literary efforts, which now total fourteen books of music criticism, lectures, and his flamboyantly frank personal diaries. His inner life has thus become perhaps the most public of any composer in history. He has admitted that his music is as much a diary as his prose, and yet "a diary ... differs from a musical composition in that it depicts the moment, the writer's present mood which, were it inscribed an hour later, could emerge quite otherwise. I don't believe that composers notate their moods, they don't tell the music where to go--it leads them... Why do I write music? Because I want to hear it--it's simple as that. Others may have more talent, more sense of duty. But I compose just from necessity, and no one else is making what I need". In 1948 his song "The Lordly Hudson" (included in this recording) was voted the Best Published Song of that year by the Music Library Association. As a body of work, his songs are universally admired as among the best of the twentieth century, demonstrating his unique ability to keep the poet's meaning intact while suffusing it with music. Rorem has rejected the complexities of serial music and other "modern" theories of composition, opting instead for a simple, clear, diatonic approach--but as has often been remarked, the surface naivet of his music conceals great depths of feeling and meaning. As critic Alec Ross has written, "his music is too mysteriously sweet to die away". The five vocalists on this recording were all among the best of their era, particularly in the art-song genre, and all made numerous recordings on major labels. Soprano Phyllis Curtin (b. 1921) was a well-known star of New York City Opera and the Met (especially in Mozart) before becoming one of America's leading voice teachers at the Berkshire Music Center, Yale University, and finally Boston University, where she served as dean of the School of the Arts until her retirement in 1992.