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Rorem: Chamber Music With Flute / Fenwick Smith

Rorem / Smith /Leisner / Thomas
Release Date: 08/30/2011 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8559674   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ned Rorem
Performer:  Mihae LeeFenwick SmithRonald ThomasDavid Leisner,   ... 
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 11 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Nuanced, intimate, well-structured and generally melodic.

Reading the small print on the back inlay reveals that only the Four Prayers on this disc are newly recorded - the other four works date back to an EtCetera CD released in the 1990s (KTC 1184). Nevertheless programme continuity is ensured by American flautist Fenwick Smith and Korean-born pianist Mihae Lee, coming together to record Four Prayers fifteen years on from the Trio and the rest.

For Ned Rorem there is a much bigger gap between first and last - these works span nearly sixty years of astonishing creativity. Although at a mere eighty-eight Rorem is half a generation younger than Elliott Carter, this is still a composer of such longevity
Read more that his early works predate Richard Strauss's so-called Four Last Songs, and his First Symphony predates Vaughan Williams's last three!

Rorem's career has been less critically feted than Carter's, due in part, no doubt, to the fact that his basically tonal idiom and general antipathy towards the avant-garde kept him on the outside of establishment cliques in the US. That Rorem writes attractive, listener-friendly music is clearly demonstrated by this gently atmospheric, introspective and thoroughly genial programme from Smith and co. Smith gives a master-class in flute technique and presentation, never let down by his various co-performers who are no mere accompanists. In his CD notes, Rorem himself praises these soloists highly, so their accounts may be considered fairly definitive.

Rorem's flute music has a largely neo-Classical feel to it, being nuanced, intimate, well-structured and generally melodic, with only a brief foray into more mordacious modernist territory here and there. Describing his early love of the "breathy gold wafting through the French forests" sound of the flute, Rorem notes that "among my opus-minus-one notebooks are many a flute solo, unused but not forgotten."

Sound quality is very good, all the more so considering the age of most of the recordings. Rorem's one absent flute work, the 1987 quintet with piano and strings, Bright Music, has already been recorded by Fibonacci Sequence for Naxos, on a disc which also includes their reading of The Book of Hours. As if that were not listening joy enough, Naxos offer further Rorem volumes, of his orchestral and vocal music, including the Flute Concerto, the three Symphonies and selected songs, and there is even another recording of The Four Prayers in their 'American Classics' series (8.559629).

-- Byzantion, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Trio for Flute, Cello and Piano by Ned Rorem
Performer:  Mihae Lee (Piano), Fenwick Smith (Flute), Ronald Thomas (Cello)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1960; USA 
2.
Romeo and Juliet by Ned Rorem
Performer:  Fenwick Smith (Flute), David Leisner (Guitar)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1977; USA 
3.
Prayers (4) by Ned Rorem
Performer:  Fenwick Smith (Flute), Mihae Lee (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
4.
Mountain Song by Ned Rorem
Performer:  Fenwick Smith (Flute), Mihae Lee (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1949; USA 
5.
Book of hours for Flute and Harp by Ned Rorem
Performer:  Fenwick Smith (Flute), Anne Hobson Pilot (Harp)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1975; USA 

Sound Samples

Mountain Song (version for flute and piano)
Romeo and Juliet: I. I ne're saw true beauty till this night
Romeo and Juliet: II. Queen Mab hath been with you
Romeo and Juliet: III. How silver-sweet sound lovers' tongues by night
Romeo and Juliet: IV. O serpent heart ...
Romeo and Juliet: V. ... sad hours seem long
Romeo and Juliet: VI. ... it was the nightingale
Romeo and Juliet: VII. Come weep with me
Romeo and Juliet: VIII. ... empty tigers
Romeo and Juliet: IX. ... never was a story of more woe
Trio for Flute, Cello and Piano: I. Largo misterioso - Allegro
Trio for Flute, Cello and Piano: II. Largo
Trio for Flute, Cello and Piano: III. Andante
Trio for Flute, Cello and Piano: IV. Allegro molto
Book of Hours: I. Matins (Nocturne)
Book of Hours: II. Lauds (Sunrise)
Book of Hours: III. Prime (6am)
Book of Hours: IV. Terce (Mid-morning)
Book of Hours: V. Sext (Noon)
Book of Hours: VI. None (Mid-afternooon)
Book of Hours: VII. Vespers (Evensong)
Book of Hours: VIII. Compline (Nightfall)
4 Prayers: First Prayer: quarter note = 60, without expression
4 Prayers: Second Prayer: half note = 50
4 Prayers: Third Prayer: Loud and Fast, quarter note = 144 (a palindrome)
4 Prayers: Last Prayer: quarter note = 69

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