Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

AMERICAN ANTHEM: from ragtime to art song
Trad. arr. Lee MUSIKER
Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?
Early in the Morning, The Lordly Hudson
Gene SCHEER, piano arr. by Lee MUSIKER
At Howard Hawks' House, Holding Each Other
John Jacob NILES
The Lass from the Low Countree
Nocturne, Sure on This Shining Night
William BOLCOM
Fur (Murray the Furrier), Over the Piano, Black Max (As Told by the Kooning Boys)
Charles IVES
Slugging a Vampire, Two Little Flowers (and dedicated to them), General William Booth Enters Into Heaven
The Lamb
Appalachian Carol, arr. John Jacob NILES and Lewis Henry HORTON
I wonder as I wander
Hymn tune, arr. Aaron COPLAND
At the River
Folksong, arr. Aaron COPLAND
Long Time Ago
Gene SCHEER, arr. Andrew THOMAS
Lean Away
American Anthem
Nathan Gunn (baritone), Kevin Murphy (pianoforte)
Recorded in St. Michael's Church, Highgate, London, 1998
EMI CLASSICS Debut Series CDZ 5 73160 2
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Not so long ago I was reviewing a disc in EMI's debut series by the promising young Russian tenor Daniil Shtoda and I had to protest vigorously that the absence of texts seriously impaired the enterprise. Well, someone in EMI has seen the road to Damascus for here the texts are given (in English only). Mind you, the words he sings in Shenandoah aren't quite the ones printed here and there are occasionally other differences, but let's not get natty when the sinner repenteth. What I do regret is that the notes (in three languages) are very brief; not all these composers are household names and it would be nice to know more about some of them.

Still, the main thing is that the presentation of this young baritone is not compromised, and he certainly deserves every success. He is a high baritone. Descents below C are rare and not very strong (this is an area to work on) but he is at home and audibly enjoying himself above middle C and right up to G. Just occasionally he stays up there a bit too much for his own good and begins to hector but these moments are rare. He is well able to encompass an extremely dramatic song like "General William Booth Enters Into Heaven" but he is also able to take in the gentle simplicity of Hoiby's "The Lamb". I must say I've never heard a vocal solo disc with quite such a wide range and I had some difficulty in finding a volume level I could leave untouched all through. His diction is clear, though I was glad to have the words handy. Though young he is a mature artist, well able to portray the character and shape of each different song.

The programme is an appealing one. If you don't know much about the American art song then start here. And even if you know the repertoire well you will surely enjoy adding these performances to your collection.

If there's a common characteristic it lies in a certain homeliness. In a way this is the American Pastoral School. While English composers were singing of the Shropshire Lad, over in the Big Country they too were rejoicing in little things. Despite the odd sad moment it's all rather comforting and friendly. I particularly liked Rorem's "Early in the Morning", Bolcom's "Fur (Murray the Furrier)" (very catchy rhythm), Hoiby's "The Lamb" ("Little lamb, who made thee?" Usually attempts at Blake's most divinely simple poems fall flat but this is really beautiful) and Gene Scheer's "Lean Away" and "American Anthem". There were a few I didn't much care for but I will hold my peace for other people will have their different likes and dislikes and this is clearly a repertoire and a singer that need to be known.

Christopher Howell

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