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Songs of Ned Rorem

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Audio CD, October 10, 2006
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 10, 2006)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Other Minds
  • ASIN: B000I8OOP6
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #317,481 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Song For a Girl
2. To the Willow Tree
3. Echo's Song
4. Upon Julia's Clothes
5. The Silver Swan
6. Psalm 134 'Behold, Bless Ye The Lord, All Ye Servants Of The Lord...'
7. Psalm 148 'Praise Ye The Lord. Praise Ye The Lord From The Heavens...'
8. Psalm 150 'Praise Ye the Lord. Praise God In His Sanctuary...'
9. The Lordly Hudson
10. Snake
11. Rain In Spring
12. Root Celler
13. Sally's Smile
14. Such Beauty As Hurts To Behold
15. My Papa's Wallz
16. Early In the Morning
17. I Am Rose
18. See How They Love Me
19. Visit To Saint Elizabeth's
20. A Christmas Carol
See all 32 tracks on this disc

Editorial Reviews

"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.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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See all 6 customer reviews
Grab it before it disappears again!!
A. Scott
For his sake, I'm pleased that he has been a success and has such a large and devoted following but I'm equally pleased that I shall never be among them.
Gustav Mahler
These are his ideal collaborators, and this album is a definitive example of American art song.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Eric on June 20, 2007
This is the quality collection that has been frustratingly absent from CD until now. There's nothing wrong with the collections featuring Carol Farley and Susan Graham; they each bring their own styles and interpretations to Rorem's music, and Farley is even accompanied by him (as is everyone on this disc).

But those later recordings feature a contemporaniety that is miles away from how the songs were originally conceived. This recording dates from 1964, and the clarity and enunciation of the singers is a revelation! Every note is clear, as is every single word. Rorem's unstudied playing is a simple, strong and pure counterpart (as his arrangements often carry on counter-melodies to the vocal lines), a series of frames for each of his distinctive and rather declarative singers.

We might prefer a more nuanced, more emotive and individualistic style today, and his songs sound fine in that mode. But they were initially conceived for this very simple and uber-competent manner, and unadorned as they are here the words of the poets that Rorem has set shine in vital clarity.

The poets include Roethke, Hopkins, Whitman, Stein, Bishop and Browning, and the songs range from less than a minute to four minutes in length. Especially memorable are the intensity of Phyllis Curtin's flexible soprano, the warm baritone of Donald Graham, while Charles Bressler verges on tenor, and Regina Safferty has a more alto range that works well for the speak-singing Rorem sometimes calls for.

These are his ideal collaborators, and this album is a definitive example of American art song. Rorem has discussed in his diaries the rise of the Beatles, and written of something approaching envy and competition with their popular success as songwriters.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A. Scott on May 12, 2007
I owned this recording as an LP when I was studying music at Performing Arts High School in New York. It was one of the first albums of Rorem's vocal works; it's been a long time coming to compact disc, but well worth the wait. During the past couple of decades I have listened to the recorded efforts of Susan Graham and Carole Farley performing many of the same pieces; while they were skilful and professional, they still qualified as efforts only. Finally we have the real deal available once again. There will never be performances in this repertoire as natural, passionate and shimmering as the ones by Phyllis Curtin, Donald Gramm, Gianna d'Angelo, Regina Sarfaty and Charles Bressler; Rorem himself is at the piano. This is 20th century music at its finest, both in composition and execution. Grab it before it disappears again!!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By G. Minella on July 18, 2010
If America was a country that ever realized what it had and honored its greatest talents the way they deserve to be then Ned Rorem would have been declared a "National Treasure" long ago. Finally, finally after years of waiting, we have his best collection of recorded songs in print again, sounding better then they ever have. With Rorem himself providing the accompaniment and some of the best American singers giving voice to the melodies we are treated to 30 of some of the finest Art songs that America has ever produced. To those who say that much of the music produced in the last century was both forgettable and devoid of any lasting value I offer this recording as proof that all was not lost. From the haunting wistful melancholy of "The Lordly Hudson" to the draw dropping beauty of "The Rain in Spring", "Early in the Morning" and "To the Willow Tree" or the breathless joy of "Sally's Smile" or the almost restrained insanity of "Visits to Saint Elizabeth's" Rorem and his singers infuse each piece with just the right amount of nuance, style and dare I say it, shear love that makes this a "must have" recording. For me this is one of my "Desert Island" discs.
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