Ives: General William Booth Enters into Heaven; The Housatonic at Stockbridge; Ich grolle nicht,

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COMPOSERS: Ives
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: A Song For Anything
WORKS: General William Booth Enters into Heaven; The Housatonic at Stockbridge; Ich grolle nicht,
PERFORMER: Gerald Finley (baritone), Julius Drake (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67516
Charles Ives was a great song writer, capable of encapsulating emotion, evocation, experiment or a good joke in a page or two with consummate artistry and utter individuality. This generous selection of 31 songs, most chosen from the volume of 114 he published at his own expense in 1922, ranges from early ballads and settings of German and French poems to squibs such as The Cage and 1, 2, 3, intense meditations such as The Things Our Fathers Loved and Tom Sails Away, and the epic General William Booth Enters into Heaven. There’s a judicious balance between familiar and less familiar, too, leaving plenty of first-rate material for at least one companion disc.

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And that’s good news, because this one is outstanding. The Canadian baritone Gerald Finley has a voice of great beauty, but it’s always under the control of his penetrating intelligence: he risks bending pitches for expressive effect, and he adapts his golden timbre and almost English diction to the childlike tones of The Greatest Man and the cowboy drawl of Charlie Rutlage. Julius Drake is an equally versatile pianist, adept alike in simplicity and complexity. The recording is excellent, though on a couple of tracks the piano tuning is in need of retouching. Overall, a disc offering sustained illumination and enjoyment. Anthony Burton