One of the most grown-up review sites around
One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here


International mailing

Up to 40% off

  Founder: Len Mullenger


Buy through MusicWeb
for £13.50 postage paid World-wide.

Musicweb Purchase button


William BOLCOM (b.1938)
Cabaret Songs (Complete)
Translations and lyrics by Arnold Weinstein
Ancient Cabaret (2001) [5.06]
Cabaret Songs: Volume 1 (1978) [14.07]; Volume 2 (1981-83) [9.23]; Volume 3 (1996) [9.54]; Volume 4 (1996) [9.39]
Joan Morris (mezzo)
William Bolcom (piano)
rec. live, Flea Theatre, New York City, September 2003. DDD
CENTAUR CRC 2682 [52.13]

I should like more of these settings than I do. Joan Morris is, after all, the perfect Bolcom singer, her voice poised between the swooping and the resinous, between the trained and the nicotine-stained supper club. It’s an adept and able instrument for playing out Weinstein’s lyrics and for exploring Bolcom’s knowing melodic lines.

So why my problem? Is it to do with a lack of melodic memorability, or is it to do with a certain archness, the kind that Blossom Dearie drips all over her routines? No, it’s not in the Dearie scale of archness. The audience at the Flea Theatre – not a flea pit from the sound of it – certainly doesn’t share my lack of, well, my lack of enthusiasm. And the words and music are clever, no doubt. But why was I drawn more to the Ancient Cabaret settings where the epigrammatic and condensed feelings seem that much more powerfully targeted. The Fourth of them, Timomarchus’s Picture of Medea in Rome, is especially dramatic and its piano part calls for some power of its own.

The four volumes of Cabaret Songs are enjoyable and I wouldn’t want to suggest that you’ll sit stony-faced throughout. You won’t. There are little touches of Latin Americana (Amor) and overt fun (Fur – Murray the Furrier, which come to think of it has a very My Attorney Bernie ring to the title, at least). Then there’s Bolcom’s vamp piano in Song of Black Max and the drunken frolic of Toothbrush Time. If you want cross-dressing try George and for hip jazz references try the Radical Chic of Radical Sally.

So, with all these pleasurable and well-loved Bolcom songs studded throughout this near-hour long recital I am doubtless a killjoy. My loss, doubtless, but in the end this recital didn’t quite hit the spot for me. Centaur print the texts, a good thing as the translations from the Greek deserve scrutiny and if you happen to miss one line from a Bolcom song you tend to miss them all.

Jonathan Woolf




We are currently offering in excess of 51,000 reviews

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.