"I've been a Rorem fan since hearing a highschool friend perform some of his work in her college recital. His startling, atonal songs were an instant revelation. For years there were few reliable CDs of his vocal work. A scandal considering his reputation rests more on his art songs and chamber music than on his orchestral pieces. This Naxos entry of a wide overview of his best songs is thus quite welcome, due largely to its availability, wide distribution and professional packaging (he's had some shoddy issues before with incorrect liner notes, etc.; the challenge of the low budget).
I can't call myself an unalloyed fan of soprano Carole Farley however. Her delivery here recalls the speak-singing style of German 12-tone composers (a specialty of hers), and can sound melodramatic, especially when she rushes the more delicate passages.
I prefer Rorem's softer, more melodious French side, the one that descends from Impressionism and is more warmly emotive. While Farley loses the shading of some of the more fragile songs, she is well-suited to the longer, more forceful pieces. I've heard many readings of "Early in the Morning" (one of Rorems most popular songs) by male and female vocalists, and its tale of wistful nostalgia is muted by Farley's direct approach. However, she nails "My Papa's Waltz," a fractured setting for a Roethke poem about a frightened child forced to dance with a drunken father. Here her acting skills come to the fore, and she perfectly captures the tipsy madness of the song. Rorem can be quite theatrical himself on occasion. She does almost as well with "See How they love me," a ballad with a regular pace that allows her assertive style to breathe.
At any rate it's great to hear these lovely songs in a recent (2000) recording, accompanied (rather emphatically, but perhaps he's matching his theatrical singer) by Rorem himself.
The similar Susan Graham album is more to my taste, but this is a more than competent bargain set. "
An American Composer of Art Song
Robin Friedman | Washington, D.C. United States | 04/01/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"American popular song, whether standards, show tunes,jazz, blues, or rock, is one of our country's most visible artistic achievements. American classical (or Art) songs are much less known. Ned Rorem (b. 1923) is probably the greatest American composer in this unfamiliar medium. Rorem is sometimes dubbed the "American Schubert."This disc features 32 of Ned Rorem's songs for voice and piano. Soprano Carole Farley is the accomplished singer, and Ned Rorem himself plays the piano. The disc is special because it features settings of the works of American poets. The CD begins with 9 settings of poems by the mid-twentieth century poet, Theodore Roethke, and concludes with settings of 5 poems by Walt Whitman. The disc also includes settings of poems by William Carlos Williams, Gertrude Stein, and Paul Goodman, among others. Thus the disc combines in a special way American creative effort in poetry and in music.Rorem's songs are declamatory in style. Typically, the voice line delivers the text of the poetry in a sort of chant. The relationship between the voice line and the piano is far from Schubertian. Generally, the piano takes a separate line and accentuates the voice by means of large chords or by runs or by other comments and punctuation on the voice. The texts are well set and the music is effective. There are some unusual harmonies with jazz and blues influences. Rorem's piano accompanyment on this disc gives the recording a sense of authenticity -- we get a good idea of how the composer wants his songs to be conveyed.The disc includes excellent program notes and texts of all the songs. Naxos has received deservedly high praise for its "American Classics" series which makes much music written by Americans available on CD at a low price. This disc includes some lovely, little-known songs. It is an excellent introduction to the American art song and to the music of Ned Rorem."
GREATEST VOCAL RECORDING OF AMERICAN MUSIC
Eric | 01/02/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Naxos deserves to be congratualated for their continuing series of recordings of the greatest American classical music. The new CD of songs by Ned Rorem, with soprano Carole Farley and the composer at the piano, is one of the very best in this remarkable series. What a wonderful document to have: the composer as performer, and one of the greatest singers of the day giving us a most inspired, delightful rendition of these songs. Her voice and technique seem capable of doing almost anything. Since her debut at the MET in that house's first production of Berg's "Lulu", probably some 25 years ago when she must have been a very young singer, Farley has grown into a major artist of enormous potential. This new recording of Rorem songs is even superior to her previous CD releases of songs by Prokofiev and Milhaud. Rorem at the piano provides exquisite insights into these beautiful songs.
Zachary Wilder | Rochester, NY | 01/03/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"While these song are GREAT...I cannot get over Carole Farley; her voice is so affected (kind of like a sprechstimme; overly dramatic...). I love the fact that Rorem himself is playing the piano, and as a singer, the catalogue of songs is good to have...but cant say I could ever manage getting over Farley's affectation. There are far superior recordings out there."
Delightful art songs
vic spicer | 01/01/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"rorem's songs are amazing, and naxos has done well
to group them by poet. the complete settings of roethke
are particularly compelling and edgey. carole farley's voice is lovely, but her phrasing
and willingness to push her voice seems
a big departure from the styling of art songs i've
heard by poulenc and somers. this takes some getting used to- at least 3 or 4 complete
listen-throughs in my case. her voice is almost jazzy,
kind of like early recordings by holly cole. anyway, rorem accompanies her on piano so obviously
this reading fits with his intent; his playing is also delightful. one small quibble- although there are 32 songs, the CD is
57 minutes- brief by naxos standards."