THIS IS SUCH A GREAT COLLECTION OF TWENTIETH CENTURY SONGS, that it behooves me to say something brief about each composer on this disc in order to perhaps provide some insight and thus more appreciation of all aspects of the song material, since it may not be as familiar as the music of earlier composers.
The music of Samuel Barber (1910-1981), whether his symphonies, concertos,operas, chamber music or songs, is notable above all for a pronounced and refined lyricism. Barber wrote songs thruout his career, and his published vocal output, though relatively small, is perhaps the most distinguished of an American composer. He preferred lyrical , romantic poetry, and his word-setting was perfect. There are four of his songs on this recording; my personal favorite is 'Sea-Snatch' which is the tenth song in his song cycle 'Hermit Songs'. It is highly dramatic, appropriate to the words "It has broken us, it has crushed us, it has drowned us....".
Stephen Foster (1826-1864) published his first song when he was 18 and by dint of hundreds more became, in the words of Aaron Copland,"our own national hero (who) had a naturalness and sweetness of sentiment that transformed his melodies into the equivalent of folk song." He was truly a songwriter rather than a composer, for he wrote no concert works or operas. Of the three songs on this recordin(and they are all unique) my favorite is a rather humorous rendition called "If You've Only Got a Moustache".
Charles Tomlinson Griffes (1884-1920) assimilated Debussian impressionism and,somewhat later, Oriental exoticism. During his brief career, he composed 64 songs, including four song-cycles. He has four songs on this album, and I choose "Evening Song" win which he uses a favorite text of mine by Sidney Lanier, and American poet; very moody music!!!
George Gershwin(1898-1937) began his career in Tin Pan Alley and eventually, with works such as 'Rhapsody in blue' for piano and orchestra and some other works, brought Jazz into the concert hall. No need to elaborate on these four songs, for they are no doubt familiar to most all of us. Love his tune "Embraceable You".
Paul Bowles (1910- ) has long enjoyed celebrity status as an author,a writer of novels, short stories and essays. After a brief study with Aaron Copland, he made a considerable reputation as a composer of incidenal music. Virgil Thompson once described Bowles's songs as "enchanting for their sweetness of mood, their lightness of texture, for in general their way of being wholly alive and right". Bowles seeks to entertain and charm with his song material, and the five songs on this disc prove it. My choice: 'Sugar in the Cane'.
Cole Porter (1891-1964) had the rare ability to invent superior catchpenny tunes; deceptively simple, often elegant melodies that stay in the ear. Consequently,he became one of the most successful American songwriter of his era. Here is another familiar name for most of us; four songs, and I love 'Blow , Gabriel, Blow' from the way-back musical 'Anything Goes'.
As to Samuel Ramey's performance of these songs, one can only say 'business as usual', and that means great sound, great diction, great interpretation and always with that extra something that only a few bassos have! The variety of works is varied and interesting and, if you please,this is NOT a cross-over album. There are too many songs that denote the classical element. He was wise enough to vary his selection to avoid that particular situation. I really like this disc!!!!!