Seventeen of these 32 songs are not otherwise available on disc‚ and they include some of Ned Rorem’s finest and most haunting. The utter simplicity that weaves a magic spell in Nantucket (where Rorem makes his home and where this recital was recorded)‚ the beautiful paralleling of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s ecstatic imagery in Spring‚ the bare but deeply eloquent Such beauty as hurts to behold‚ the amiable contemplation of old age and possible immortality in Full of life now (which I have already rechristened ‘The Walt Whitman Waltz’)Ê–Êall these are warmly welcome‚ and it is good to have for the first time a complete recording of Rorem’s nine settings of Theodore Roethke. Carole Farley’s diction is so immaculate that you will hardly need the booklet of texts‚ and her acute response to words must be one reason why Rorem so willingly collaborated with her on this recording‚ suggesting songs to suit her voice.
About the voice itself some might have a reservation. Although Farley fines her tone down for the most part effectively her sound is basically operatic‚ and her roles have ranged from Berg’s Lulu to Strauss’s Salome. There are momentary awkwardnesses in negotiating tricky corners‚ and the brightness of her voice can sound strenuous; this is emphasised by a very close recording. But rejecting this disc on that account would mean foregoing the infectious lilt of The Nightingale‚ the amply lyrical‚ movingly expressive Love in a life‚ the beautiful long lines of Ask me no more and all the others I have mentioned. No‚ admirers of Rorem’s unique talent (I’ve said it before‚ but I’ll say it again: there is no finer living writer of songs) will simply have to have this collection. His pianoplaying is beautifully supportive.