Bolcom, Barber, Bernstein

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Barber,Bernstein,Bolcom
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: I Will Breathe a Mountain
PERFORMER: Marilyn Horne (mezzo-soprano), Martin Katz (piano); Tokyo String Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68771 2
The veteran American mezzo Marilyn Horne here demonstrates both her commitment to American song and the value of a sound technique in ensuring a long career. These recordings were made between 1993 and 1996, the latest only a couple of months before her 63rd birthday. Yet the voice is steady except under extreme pressure, with all its old core of steel, and exemplary clarity and expressiveness of diction. The centrepiece of the programme is a song cycle by William Bolcom, written for Horne and her long-time pianist collaborator, the excellent Martin Katz. It sets a disparate selection of poems by women writers, with a similarly wide stylistic range, from hymn-like simplicity to operatic declamation and even Rossinian coloratura; and it is by turns wry, funny, touching and moving.

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Horne convincingly reclaims Samuel Barber’s early masterpiece Dover Beach, with string quartet, for the female voice (although published as for baritone, it was first performed by a contralto). She also brings spirit and understanding to a group of Barber’s solo songs, and a connoisseur’s selection of songs by Leonard Bernstein – including the little-known ‘So Pretty’, written for Barbra Streisand to sing at an anti-war benefit, and the exquisite theatre song ‘Dream With Me’. Anthony Burton