- Songs of Innocence and Experience, for soloists, choruses, and orchestra
William Bolcom: Songs of Innocence and of Experienceby Leonard Slatkin
Only a handful of audiences have experienced William Bolcom's Songs of Innocence and Experience since its 1984 premiere, so gratitude is owed to Naxos for the work's first recording, one of the must-hear classical CDs of 2004. Bolcom's massive cycle sets 46 William Blake poems (grouped into nine shorter sequences), lasting over two hours. With the huge orchestra and chorus augmented by a large cast of vocal soloists -- as well as fiddler, harmonica, and electronic instruments -- the song settings veer between choral madrigals, modernist art song, folksong, and even reggae. Hovering in the background are Mahler's all-inclusiveness, Britten's poetic juxtapositions (and his vocal writing), and Bernstein's versatility, but this encyclopedic and eclectic work is still absolutely unique. Bolcom's Songs as a whole convey a grand arch of human existence but will also be appreciated for the charm and expressiveness of individual songs, which invariably marry musical style to poetry in illuminating ways. Leonard Slatkin, a longtime champion of the score, leads a live performance from the University of Michigan (where Bolcom teaches), and the recording preserves the excitement of the occasion. With so many strikingly fine soloists it almost seems unfair to single out Joan Morris (Bolcom's wife and frequent cabaret partner), who adds an earthy touch to some of the popular-style numbers; the young soprano Measha Brueggergosman, who contributes two beautifully lyrical "Songs of Innocence" on the first disc; and the dramatic soprano Christine Brewer, whose powerful "Earth's Answer" sets the tone for the darker "Songs of Experience" that follow. Bolcom is one of America's most accomplished composers; he has a true gift for communicating with audiences in the opera house or the concert hall. The Songs of Innocence and Experience are as rich as any great art, yet accessible through and through -- and this admirable recording should do the job of spreading their renown.
- Release Date:
Performance CreditsLeonard Slatkin Primary Artist
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews