Rorem: Book of Hours; End of Summer; Bright Music

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Rorem
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Book of Hours; End of Summer; Bright Music
PERFORMER: Fibonacci Sequence
CATALOGUE NO: 8.559128
Ned Rorem, 80 this year, is best known as a master of the American art song; but this selection of his chamber music from the Seventies and Eighties shows a different side to his character. All three works prove intriguing and rewarding, with an unexpected emphasis on virtuosity. Even Book of Hours, a cycle of miniatures for flute and harp corresponding to the services of the monastic day, has a demanding, albeit entirely idiomatic harp part. End of Summer, for clarinet, violin and piano, begins with a taxing violin solo, and thereafter alternates between brilliant ensemble passages and style-switching echoes of hymn tunes, Brahms and Chopin.

Advertisement

Bright Music, a suite for flute, two violins, cello and piano, also contrasts ensemble virtuosity with extreme simplicity, most starkly when its static, dreamlike fourth movement is followed by a terse, whirlwind finale inspired by the closing movement of Chopin’s B flat minor Sonata. The talented British players who make up the Fibonacci Sequence are audibly stretched by this, but elsewhere – with violinist Jonathan Carney and pianist Kathron Sturrock leading the way – respond well to Rorem’s technical and musical demands. The recording is adequate, but lacking in warmth and inconsistent in perspective. Anthony Burton