Bolcom: Songs to Dance; I Will Breathe a Mountain

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

ALBUM TITLE: Bolcom songs
WORKS: Songs to Dance; I Will Breathe a Mountain
PERFORMER: Carole Farley (soprano), William Bolcom (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.559249
After the massive Songs of Innocence and of Experience, reviewed last month, this is William Bolcom as miniaturist, in songs with piano written over forty years. In I Will Breathe a Mountain, a cycle of settings of women’s poetry written for Marilyn Horne, Carole Farley is less operatically grand and more conversational than Horne herself on RCA (reviewed December 2001), with the help of the composer’s urgent tempos and brilliant pianism. Elsewhere, Farley shows clear and intelligent handling of the texts – sometimes uncannily recalling Bolcom’s wife and long-time recital partner Joan Morris. She also has considerable expressive range, encompassing the deceptive simplicity of the Blake setting Mary and the cycle Songs to Dance, the ferocity of The Last Days of Mankind (intended for Marianne Faithfull), the down-and-dirty humour of some early theatre numbers, and the charm of a group of songs derived from The Wind in the Willows. Balance is not quite perfect, with the piano in too much space and the voice not quite forward enough; and there are a couple of small editing lapses. But these are minor blemishes on a most enjoyable collection. Anthony Burton