Rorem: Songs

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

WORKS: Songs
PERFORMER: Carole Farley (soprano); Ned Rorem (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.559084
American audiences have known about Ned Rorem’s songs for ages, it seems; on the evidence of this disc, it’s about time the rest of the musical world caught up with them. Rorem’s nose for a good, settable text, and his ability to find nuances latent in the words, is as unerring as Benjamin Britten’s, and yet – dare I say this in a British magazine? – there’s none of that naive tweeness that occasionally disfigures Britten’s vocal works. He also has a refreshing gift for creating memorable, direct, singable vocal lines that can recall Sondheim or Bernstein, except that Rorem is subtler than Sondheim and, compared to Bernstein, blissfully sugar-free. The variety of the songs is captivating, too: not just the breadth of musical character, but the range of human emotions and experiences encompassed. Thoughout this splendid recital the composer is a discreet, sensitive accompanist. Carole Farley’s singing impresses more for spirit and insight than for vocal beauty (pitch isn’t always perfect). All the same, the humour, the expressive and dramatic intensity, and above all her clearly communicated love for the songs make these five-star performances. The recording brings us close to the voice – blindingly so in the final shout of ‘Alleluia’; still, with singing of such character you wouldn’t want to miss too much. Stephen Johnson