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Kathryn Lewek Sings Cary Ratcliff


Release Date: 12/09/2008 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1066   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Cary Ratcliff
Performer:  Kathryn LewekCary RatcliffAllyn Van DusenRichard Killmer
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 39 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



RATCLIFF Now There Shall Be No Rain. 2 If You Love for Beauty. 2 Songs of Moving On. Leaving a House Long Lived In. What Is Red? What Is Orange? 2 Rhymes and a Metaphor. 1 Moon Tiger Songs. i am my mother i am not. The Last Rose of Summer. Nightsongs Kathryn Lewek (sop); Cary Ratcliff (pn); Allyn Van Dusen (mez); 1 Richard Killmer (ob) 2 Read more ALBANY TROY1066 (38:47)


Growing up, as I did, in Rochester, New York, one might have thought that Cary Ratcliff (b. 1953) was one of the most famous composers in the world. His music seemed absolutely ubiquitous, particularly a set of Christmas-carol arrangements that every single choir in the county seemed to perform. It is remarkable to me that it has taken this long for a full commercial release of his work to appear; this Albany disc is both long overdue and exceptionally welcome. Ratcliff is a superb composer, a writer of deeply expressive and very beautiful music.


Ratcliff’s language is based firmly in tonality/modality, though it is wide-ranging in the actual harmonic techniques he employs. In general, he adopts an expressively romantic idiom to paint texts vividly. He often employs harmonies built from extended chords of similar intervals (in the manner of Joseph Schwantner, one of Ratcliff’s teachers) and deploys them in arpeggiated figurations with the piano’s damper pedal depressed. Though he has a personal approach to song writing, those who enjoy the well-known song catalogs of Barber, Rorem, or Hoiby would like very much what Ratcliff has to say. Ratcliff knows the voice well (during his college years at the Eastman School, he was an accompanist for the voice studio of Jan DeGaetani), and his vocal lines have a natural ease to them, without feeling clichéd.


The songs are all in English, with texts primarily by British and American poets, ranging from the very famous (Christina Rosetti and Edna St. Vincent Millay) to the less well known (Karla Kuskin and Gracia Grindal). My personal favorite selection is the opening track, Now There Shall Be No More Rain , an absolutely exquisite setting (with oboe) of an Apache wedding blessing. The cycle, Moon Tiger Songs (on poems of Denise Levertov, Wittner Bynner, and Anonymous), is another high point, exploring deeply felt emotion in its 11-minute duration.


This release features primarily soprano Kathryn Lewek and Ratcliff himself at the piano. Joining them for a few selections are Richard Killmer (longtime professor of oboe at the Eastman School of Music) and mezzo-soprano Allyn Van Dusen, who is also a fixture on the Rochester performance scene. The performances are all strong and presumably—given the composer’s involvement in every track—definitive. (In a few places, the piano’s tuning is slightly less than ideal—but this is a minor quibble.)


My one significant complaint about this otherwise excellent release is its duration. It is simply unacceptable in 2009 to release a full-priced CD of such a brief length. Ratcliff has a large catalog of instrumental chamber music, and the inclusion of even one of those works (such as his deeply moving Cello Sonata) would have nudged the disc towards an acceptable duration for a commercial release. Regardless, if one is at all interested in beautiful American art songs, this is a release worth obtaining. Though it’s still early in the year, it is a strong contender for my Want List.


FANFARE: Carson Cooman
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Works on This Recording

1. The Last Rose of Summer by Cary Ratcliff
Performer:  Kathryn Lewek (Soprano), Cary Ratcliff (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
2. Songs (2) of Moving On by Cary Ratcliff
Performer:  Cary Ratcliff (Piano), Kathryn Lewek (Soprano)
Period: 20th Century 
3. Two Rhymes and a Metaphor by Cary Ratcliff
Performer:  Kathryn Lewek (Soprano), Cary Ratcliff (Piano), Allyn Van Dusen (Mezzo Soprano)
Period: 20th Century 
4. Nightsongs by Cary Ratcliff
Performer:  Kathryn Lewek (Soprano), Cary Ratcliff (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
5. Now there shall be no rain by Cary Ratcliff
Performer:  Cary Ratcliff (Piano), Kathryn Lewek (Soprano), Richard Killmer (Oboe)
Period: 20th Century 
6. i am my mother i am not by Cary Ratcliff
Performer:  Kathryn Lewek (Soprano), Cary Ratcliff (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
7. Moon Tiger Songs by Cary Ratcliff
Performer:  Kathryn Lewek (Soprano), Cary Ratcliff (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
8. What Is Red? What Is Orange? by Cary Ratcliff
Performer:  Kathryn Lewek (Soprano), Cary Ratcliff (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
9. If You Love for Beauty by Cary Ratcliff
Performer:  Cary Ratcliff (Piano), Kathryn Lewek (Soprano), Richard Killmer (Oboe)
Period: 20th Century 
10. Leaving a House Long Lived In by Cary Ratcliff
Performer:  Kathryn Lewek (Soprano), Cary Ratcliff (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 

Sound Samples

2 Wedding Songs: No. 1. Now There Shall Be No Rain
2 Wedding Songs: No. 2. If You Love for Beauty
2 Songs of Moving On: No. 1. Wild Swans
2 Songs of Moving On: No. 2. Travel
3 New England Lyrics: No. 2. Leaving a House Long Lived In
What is Red?
What is Orange?
2 Rhymes and a Metaphor: Seasand and Sorrow
2 Rhymes and a Metaphor: Silver Bark of Beech
2 Rhymes and a Metaphor: Never May the Fruit Be Plucked
Moon Tiger Songs: I shall say what inordinate love is
Moon Tiger Songs: Moon Tiger
Moon Tiger Songs: Not to Have
Moon Tiger Songs: There is a Solitude
I am my mother I am not
The Last Rose of Summer
Nightsongs: Nightdance Children
Nightsongs: Blow Out the Sun
Nightsongs: The Radish

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