Wuorinen: Vocal Works

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Eddins
More than a third of the pieces on this 2007 release of vocal music by Charles Wuorinen were written since the turn of the millennium, with most of the rest dating from the previous decade, with only one as early as 1970. While no one could accuse the composer of undue lyricism or going soft on his aesthetic convictions and giving in to the siren song of neo-romanticism, these works are more audience-friendly than some of the uncompromisingly modernist works of his early career. Part of the reason may have something to do with their length -- a song is short enough for a listener to get his or her mind around much more easily than an extended movement of chamber or ...
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Eddins
More than a third of the pieces on this 2007 release of vocal music by Charles Wuorinen were written since the turn of the millennium, with most of the rest dating from the previous decade, with only one as early as 1970. While no one could accuse the composer of undue lyricism or going soft on his aesthetic convictions and giving in to the siren song of neo-romanticism, these works are more audience-friendly than some of the uncompromisingly modernist works of his early career. Part of the reason may have something to do with their length -- a song is short enough for a listener to get his or her mind around much more easily than an extended movement of chamber or orchestral music. Wuorinen also uses interesting and unconventional accompaniments; some songs are written for piano, but often the accompaniment is a chamber ensemble or a single instrument, such as English horn, violin, or harp. The use of texts also has a familiarizing effect; if the listener starts out knowing what the emotional tone of a piece is going to be, it's easier to relate that meaning to even difficult musical languages. Wuorinen's vocal works aren't consistently persuasive -- some are just too jagged and inscrutable to offer much of a toehold for the listener -- but others, while using the same complex harmonic and melodic language, have a clear dramatic trajectory that both reflects and expands on the meaning of the texts. Among the more compelling songs are "Two Machine Portraits" 2001, with texts by Les Murray, which is practically whimsical, and the four emotionally direct and idiomatically differentiated songs to texts by James Fenton 1997. The most immediately engaging is the completely charming "Christes Crosse of Thomas Morley" 1994, which has an uncharacteristically lyrical vocal line, with a piano accompaniment that begins in a faux-Renaissance style and grows increasingly frenetic until it eventually sounds like Nancarrow. The recordings, made with a variety of soloists and instrumentalists, were made between 1993 and 2006. All the singers negotiate Wuorinen's treacherous, wildly disjunct vocal lines with utter confidence and commitment, but tenor Ryan MacPherson, soprano Elizabeth Farnum, and especially soprano Phyllis Bryn-Julson, stand out for the warmth and expressiveness they bring to the music.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 11/6/2007
  • Label: Albany Records
  • UPC: 034061096825
  • Catalog Number: 968

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1 Two Machine Portraits, for voice & piano - Phillip Bush & Charles Wuorinen (3:49)
  2. 2 The Long Boat, for voice & English horn - Jackie Leclair & Charles Wuorinen (2:40)
  3. 3 Twang, for mezzo soprano or soprano & piano - Charles Wuorinen & Phyllis Bryn-Julson (2:08)
  4. 4 Lightenings VIII - Charles Wuorinen & Howard Stokar (2:24)
  5. 5 Visible, for voice & violin - Charles Wuorinen & Mark Steinberg (2:54)
  6. 6 September 11, 2001 for voice & piano - Wystan Hugh Auden & Charles Wuorinen (10:41)
  7. 7–10 Fenton Songs (4) for voice, 2 guitars, violin & cello - Charles Wuorinen & Howard Stokar (9:46)
  8. 8 Christes Crosse, for voice & piano - Alan Feinberg & Charles Wuorinen (4:15)
  9. 9 Pentecost, for voice & harp - Charles Wuorinen & Howard Stokar (3:39)
  10. 10 A Song to the Lute in Musicke, for voice & piano - Charles Wuorinen & Howard Stokar (3:31)
  11. 11 Stanzas Before Time, for voice & harp - John Ashbery & Charles Wuorinen (4:00)
  12. 12 A Winter's Tale, for voice & ensemble - Charles Wuorinen & Charles Wuorinen (25:23)
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