This must rate as one of Barbara Bonney`s classic recordings; it was very well received on its release in 1996 and remains a consistent recommendation for the repertoire it covers.
Bonney is of course here accompanied by André Previn, who composed the opening piece “Sallie Chisum Remembers Billy the Kid” specially for her; a fairly slight work maybe, she nevertheless sings it beautifully and with an endearing naïvety. The real substance of the album is to be found in Copland`s “Twelve Poems by Emily Dickinson” and Barber`s “Hermit Songs”; these are exemplary performances of two popular song cycles requiring very different approaches – the Barber being the more lyrical which particularly suits Bonney`s voice.(“The Monk and His Cat” has long been a favourite of mine). But one mustn't overlook the Argento; the “Six Elizabethan Songs” are world première recordings (well they were in 1996) and are a nicely varied set. Previn`s “Vocalise” with the addition of cellist Sato Knudsen rounds off a very satisfying album indeed.
Bonney and Previn give a good account of these works as an inspired partnership in a fairly challenging programme of art songs which rewards repeated listening. The disc runs to just over 76 minutes; full texts are provided in English and French. Do check out the music sample clips above.
A few weeks ago , Musiq3 , the francophone Belgian counterpart of BBC-3 , dedicated a sort of Building a Library program to songs of Samuel Barber . If I remember rightly , among 5 or 6 versions this one stood out . And Barber songs are really a treat ; you can always argue that he was not exactly a progressive type of composer , but for me at least music should please in the first place , and I don't really care if the musicologists don't rate him highly . And frankly , the kind of poetry he uses in his music is on another level than the average Lied poems used in the 19th century , except Goethe and Heine texts used by Schubert ans Sshumann . Warmly recommended then .