Ned Rorem: On an echoing road

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Rorem
LABELS: Linn
WORKS: On an Echoing Road; Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal; Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair; Do not Love too Long; Hymn for Evening etc
PERFORMER: The Prince Consort: Anna Leese (soprano), Jennifer Johnston (mezzo), Tim Mead (countertenor), Andrew Staples (tenor), Jacques Imbrailo (baritone), Alisdair Hogarth (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CKD 342 (hybrid CD/SACD)

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Ned Rorem, now in his mid-eighties, is the great art song composer of our time: a title handsomely confirmed by this anthology of two dozen solo songs, interspersed with two duets, two trios and a quartet. The songs – all free-standing miniatures, many under two minutes and none longer than four – are shared out around The Prince Consort, a talented young ensemble of graduates of the Royal College of Music (in Prince Consort Road).
 
All five singers have clearly grasped the importance of Rorem’s text-based conception of song, ‘poetry as expressed through the voice’, and they sing – albeit in resolutely English English which can sometimes jar in Rorem’s settings of poems by fellow-Americans – with an unforced lightness which brings the words to the fore.
 
This approach is admirably supported by the ease with which the group’s artistic director Alisdair Hogarth negotiates Rorem’s often tricky piano parts, and by an outstanding recording in the intimate acoustic of Potton Hall in rural Suffolk. Altogether, this is a highly enjoyable disc which complements the celebrated solo collections by Susan Graham with Malcolm Martineau (Erato) and Carole Farley with the composer (Naxos), and is by no means eclipsed by them. Anthony Burton