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Gordon - Campbell: Rappahannock County
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Inspired by diaries, letters, and
personal accounts from the 1860s,
Rappahannock County is a music-theatre work which movingly and
dramatically commemorates the
150th anniversary of the American
Civil War. The location of the
Rappahannock River as a border
between North and South is a
metaphor for the region's many
conflicts. Performed by a cast of five
singers who play over 30 roles, the
piece brings this dramatic historical
period to life in songs which express
the devastating impact of the Civil
War on all of the people who
endured it. Ricky Ian Gordon's
music has been described as 'caviar
for a world gorging on pizza' ( The
New York Times), and Rappahannock
Countyhas been commended for its
'effusiveness and accessibility' by
The Washington Post .
One of the most enjoyable aspects of this recording of the première production of Rappahannock County is the consistent excellence of the cast of vocalists, each member of which faces difficulties of dramatic expression, textural delivery, and musical technique. Though composed in a style that mostly avoids the histrionics of 'traditional' opera, Mr. Gordon s score nonetheless presents challenges to each of the soloists, and there are few performances of new music in which the vocal demands are met with the level of achievement heard in this performance. ...Mr. Campbell and Mr. Gordon have created a depiction of this milestone in the history of the United States that is not one of generals on horseback, deafening cannonades, and grandiose ideals of succession or Reconstruction: performed with honesty and impeccable musicality and recorded by NAXOS with presence and imagination, Rappahannock County proves a moving portrait of the wondrous pragmatism of America in some of her darkest hours and, in its unmistakable faith in the most basic will to endure, of the essence of the Old Dominion. --Joey Newsome, Voix Des Arts Blog
Top customer reviews
The texts create an effective series of views on the war from the townspeople of the county, and range from comments on religion and politics to, of course, slavery. Gordon's music is primarily tonal, yet the wide range of texts, without repeated speakers, prevent any motive establishment, which may disappoint listeners looking for musical themes to grasp. However, judging by the appreciative response from the live audience on this recording, this issue appeared irrelevant.
Recorded at the Harrison Opera House in Norfolk, Virginia, in 2011, the five singers give yeoman performances, playing multiple roles throughout the cycle. Baritone Mark Walters, mezzo Faith Sherman, tenor Matthew Tuell, baritone Kevin Moreno and soprano Aundi Marie Moore deliver beautiful performances of Gordon's score under the able baton of Rob Fisher.
The recording also contains six gorgeous art songs of Gordon's under the title "Late Afternoon," written in 2001. Inspired by his visit to Provincetown following the 1997 death of his partner, Gordon's writing is passionate and cathartic, expressing his need to purge his feelings, and using the writings of Marie Howe, Jean Valentine and the poet Jane Kenyon to accomplish this goal.