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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Carole BOGARD - A Collection of American Songs
John Alden CARPENTER (1876-1951) (John Moriarty, piano)
Two Poems by Siegfried Sassoon (1920) [8:25]
Gitanjali (Song Offerings) by Rabindranath Tagore (1914) [21:45]
John DUKE (1899-1984) (also accompanies)
Songs to portions of From the Sea by Sara Teasdale [10:29]
Six Poems by Emily Dickinson [10:10]
Four Poems by e.e. cummings [7:43]
Richard CUMMING (also accompanies)
As Dew in April (anon. 14th c. English) (with Beth Orson. oboe) [2:45]
Two Poems by William Blake [4:34]
Heart, we will forget him by Emily Dickinson (with Theodore Mook, cello) [2:47]
Three Poems by Philip Minor [6:30]
Aaron COPLAND (1900-1990) (John Moriarty, piano)
Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson [30:00]
William FLANAGAN (b.1923) (David Del Tredici, piano)
Cycle from Time's Long Ago! by Herman Melville [14:31]
Three Poems by Howard Moss [11:19]
Good-bye My Fancy by Walt Whitman (with R. Sullivan, guitar) [6:20]
Ned ROREM (b.1923) (John Moriarty, piano)
Four Poems by Tennyson (1949) [2:34]
Carole Bogard (soprano)
Pianists: John Moriarty (Carpenter, Copland, Rorem), John Duke (Duke), Richard Cumming (Cumming), David Del Tredici (Flanagan)
rec. 1968 Desto LP (Flanagan), European Radio tapes 1970s (Copland, Carpenter, Rorem), Cambridge LPs early 1980s Duke and Cumming
PARNASSUS PACD 96021/2 [77.27+75.17]



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Carole Bogard has a fine, high, slender voice and an evident intelligence that imbues her singing with a finely poised alloy of intellect and passion - neither precious nor blowsy.

This idiosyncratic anthology appeared on CD in 2001 to little critical attention. The audience for songs by American composers is less extensive than that for English songs. The reason is a matter for speculation. Certainly those with a passion for the setting of English texts would be myopic to turn aside from the chaotic variety of song writing like this simply because it is American.

John Duke was a native of Maryland, who studied with Artur Schnabel and Nadia Boulanger. He developed a name as a writer of light musicals for college productions. Artsongs were his avocation and there are 210 to choose from. A third of these were written after his retirement in 1967. The ones appearing here are written in a conservative idiom, delicate, silvery and sentimental. Jazz is not a presence; it is rather as if the songs have been written by an American counterpart to Lehár at one moment and Brahms or Schumann at the next - perhaps Macdowell would be a better reference. There is nothing of the harmonic complexity or depth of say Schoeck or Gurney. Other songs such as those on the Emily Dickinson poems recall Michael Head; they exude a lofty innocence aided by Bogard's high and usually well sustained soprano. Listen to the end of Let Down the Bars to hear the steady quality of Bogard's voice at ppp. Bogard is also responsive in voice colouring and expression witness her response to the precious Georgian humour of Bee I'm expecting you (tr 19 CD1). The third Duke collection is a small cycle of four e.e. cummings settings. These are the best of Duke amongst what is on offer here ... and a considerable best they are. They are a delight and can be thought of as a match to Moeran's Four Shakespeare Songs and, closer to Duke’s home, the Dickinson settings by Leo Smit and the Luening songs so beautifully put across on another Parnassus disc reviewed elsewhere here (Danielle Woerner, PACD 96012).

Richard Cumming is another unfamiliar name. His muse probes yet more steadily, poignantly and deeply. The emotional scalpel is turned with a sheer melancholy in As dew in April (familiar words among English composers). The setting is lovingly coaxed by the remora-like oboe of Beth Orson and the composer's piano. High praise also for the Two Blake Poems. The second of these, London, reminds me of the theme of A.E. Housman's poem of the countryman despairing on the streets of London. Housman must surely have known the Blake poem. This is dark and macabre and Cumming matches its inimical desolate qualities. Once again a second instrument appears (the cello of Theodore Mook) to track the interweave of loss and memory in Dickinson's poem 'Heart we will forget him!' The three poems by Philip Minor are more elliptical in their music and use a marginally more challenging palette - but nothing more ‘outré’ than say Poulenc. It is Poulenc that Ned Rorem, in his notes compares with Cumming. The last song has the brio of early Sondheim - but then so does Poulenc. All these are taken from a Cambridge LP.

On the second disc comes Copland's Dickinson set. Bogard's sometimes chaste-seeming and unhurried voice here sounds darker and more operatic in a reverberant acoustic. Breathtakingly quiet and high sustained singing on the words I remember him! at the end of the fifth song of the cycle have also been movingly set by Cumming (tr.27 CD1).

It reflects great credit and speaks volumes of the discriminating taste and commitment to literacy of Parnassus and Leslie Gerber that they sought out the necessary permissions to print the words of all 56 songs. The same dedication shows in Parnassus honouring the composer's wish to establish the spiritual scene by printing a poem that is not sung as a preface to the first song in the Gitanjali cycle by Carpenter.

Detroit born Flanagan studied with Copland and Diamond. He has written extensively though I do not recall hearing anything of his before this. The ten songs come from a 1968 DESTO LP. There are six in the Herman Melville cycle. Here the language is more obtuse or rather less direct than in the case of Cumming and Duke. This is not heart-ease music. Flanagan freely appropriates densely impressionist mannerisms and all the apparatus of ivy and lichen that hangs over the darkling songs of Frank Bridge and Schoenberg. Analogue hiss is strong here and the Moss poems and the isolated Whitman setting betray, in their sound, that they were taken down from an LP unlike the hissy though smoothly achieved Melville songs. An unnamed flautist joins the guitar of Mr R. Sullivan in the hothouse haze of Whitman's Goodbye My Fancy. David Del Tredici, that celebrant of Lewis Carroll's ‘Alice’ in every perspective is the pianist in the Flanagan songs. Ned Rorem we know well. His lyrical composerly voice is destined to be recognised and highly regarded in the longer term. He seems a natural melodist and you can tell as much even from his non-vocal music (see my review of his recent Naxos chamber collection). It is typical of Rorem that he should so late in the last century set a determinedly unfashionable poet such as Tennyson whose words are more naturally associated with the likes of Roger Quilter. In fact he chooses to set the text by which Quilter remains best known Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal. The songs drift by in a sultry dream - yet always clear. Rorem really should have a look at the poems of Ernest Dowson.

The songs of John Alden Carpenter have here been sifted down to produce two collections - first the pair of Sassoon poems and then the Tagore cycle (also available with orchestra - though unrecorded). Sassoon is quintessentially English - from an aristocratic setting and living with the brutal awakening of the Great War and the guilty survival of that war. Tagore has been set by Frank Bridge - also with orchestra. When you hear Slumber-Song you will ask yourself why we do not hear this in music competitions and in recitals. It is followed by the faintly Hispanic Serenade - a touch of Chabrier here. It is weighed down by a certain conventionality of gesture something which cannot be said of the wondrous Slumber-Song. The Tagore set of six songs is fragrant and innocent (When I bring to you coloured toys), tollingly marmoreal (On the day when death and I am like a remnant) and smilingly benign (The sleep that flits on baby's eyes). An outstandingly lovely song is On the seashore of endless worlds the children meet. This is blithe yet emotionally subtle. Carole Bogard knew and came to love these songs before she was twenty and she has championed them over the years. If you are interested in Carpenter also remember his Sea Drift on Albany, the two symphonies on Naxos and a jam-packed recital of 31 songs on Albany TROY 388.

This present pair of discs is indispensable to the collector of fine songs setting English words. For the most part your ears are being opened to the rarest songs mostly in an idiom that is rapt and lyrical - the Flanagans are the exception and account for the word 'mostly'.

These pioneering recordings, made between twenty and thirty years ago, have been 'rescued' from various sources and there are differences in perspective and sound quality; small matters but you need to be aware of them and not expect total perfection. I noticed one or two channel blemishes where the voice suddenly became stronger in one channel; nothing to put you off or detract from this valuable traversal of largely unknown songs.

Rob Barnett



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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