In his affectionate memoir to accompany this CD, Ned Rorem recalls Barber, Thomson and Copland as composers, performers and teachers. The most extraordinary part of his recollection is the occasion when Barber accompanied Leontyne Price in the European premiere of his Hermit Songs in Rome in 1954 for an audience of what Rorem calls ‘serial killer’ composers. They hissed in ‘The monk and his cat’ and booed at the end. Yet 45 years later no one can remember any of the other music that was presented in the series, and here are Barber and Price recorded later that year.
Knoxville: Summer of 1915 has now been recorded by at least half-a-dozen other sopranos since Eleanor Steber’s creator’s recording, but this is still essentialRead more listening. The voice is lovely but the manner somewhat more formal and actressy than later interpreters (including Price with Schippers) who have given it a more relaxed feel.
William Warfield’s recording of Copland’s Old American Songs with the nostalgic ‘Long time ago’, the reverent ‘Simple gifts’ and the nowadays politically incorrect ‘I bought me a cat’, was such a success that the composer came up with a second set which has become almost as well-known, with ‘Zion’s wall’ and ‘At the river’. This second set has never been issued before – what can have prevented it? Warfield was one of that exceptional company that went on tour with Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess in the early 1950s (he was married to Leontyne Price). He has a delightful way of speaking the lyrics without hindering his firm bass-baritone line. There could be no greater contrast between Warfield’s performance of these songs and the recording of the first set made at almost the same time by Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten (EMI, 5/51 – nla). Whereas Warfield and the composer give them the outdoors American mood intended, Pears and Britten added a sort of veneer of sophistication and slight parody.
Virgil Thomson’s setting of Max Jacob’s poem Stabat mater takes us into a different world. One of his most intense pieces (only five minutes long) it is sung with declamatory fervour by Jennie Tourel, her slight Russian-American accent adding the final cosmopolitan touch. Capital Capitals is one of Thomson’s earliest settings of Gertrude Stein’s cubist poetry. All 3,000 words of this dialogue are used by Thomson; it has something of the feel of an early try-out for what would become Four Saints in Three Acts. All the four male soloists in this have beautifully clear diction – there are no texts supplied but it doesn’t matter – Stein is always better sung or declaimed than read silently. The rhythm of her repetitions and alliteration all makes sense so long as you don’t try to make a story out of it. The sound of these recordings, all getting on for 50 years old, is magnificent and the performances all definitive.
-- Patrick O'Connor, Gramophone [9/1999] Read less
Works on This Recording
Knoxville, Summer of 1915, Op. 24by Samuel Barber Performer:
Eleanor Steber (Soprano)
Dumbarton Oaks Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century Written: 1947-1950; USA Date of Recording: 11/07/1950 Venue: Columbia 30th Street Studios, NYC Length: 14 Minutes 7 Secs. Language: English
Hermit Songs, Op. 29by Samuel Barber Performer:
Leontyne Price (Soprano),
Samuel Barber (Piano)
Period: 20th Century Written: 1952-1953; USA Date of Recording: 11/19/1954 Venue: Columbia 30th Street Studios, NYC Length: 16 Minutes 34 Secs. Language: English
Old American Songs, Set 1by Aaron Copland Performer:
Aaron Copland (Piano),
William Warfield (Baritone)
Period: 20th Century Written: 1950; USA Date of Recording: 08/16/1951 Venue: Columbia 30th Street Studios, NYC Length: 12 Minutes 40 Secs. Language: English
Old American Songs, Set 2by Aaron Copland Performer:
Aaron Copland (Piano),
William Warfield (Baritone)
Period: 20th Century Written: 1952; USA Date of Recording: 08/18/1953 Venue: Columbia 30th Street Studios, NYC Length: 13 Minutes 6 Secs. Language: English
Stabat materby Virgil Thomson Performer:
Claus Adam (Cello),
Walter Trampler (Viola),
Matthew Raimondi (Violin),
Broadus Erle (Violin),
Jennie Tourel (Soprano)
New Music Quartet
Period: 20th Century Written: 1931/1981; USA Date of Recording: 04/17/1951 Venue: Columbia 30th Street Studios, NYC Length: 5 Minutes 31 Secs. Language: French Notes: Ver: 1931
Capital Capitalsby Virgil Thomson Performer:
Virgil Thomson (Piano),
Joseph James (Baritone),
William C. Smith (Bass),
Clyde S. Turner (Tenor),
Joseph Crawford (Tenor)
Period: 20th Century Written: 1927; Paris, France Date of Recording: 05/11/1951 Venue: Columbia 30th Street Studios, NYC Length: 17 Minutes 7 Secs. Language: English
Knoxville: Summer of 1915 for Voice and Orchestra, Op. 24 (In Memory of My Father)
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