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NED ROREM: 'Cello suite & Double Concerto

Naxos American Classics 8.559316

Two desirable works which ought to find their way across the Atlantic for concert performance in UK and Europe. The cello suite After Reading Shakespeare (1981 - recorded 1982) has not been previously released, so far as I have been able to ascertain from Rorem's discography.

It dates from before the era of "extended techniques" which would be expected of a composer nowadays. Instead Rorem relishes the self-sufficiency of the rich-toned cello on its own, and his friendship with its splendid exponent, cellist Sharon Robinson.

It is one of many examples of works which ought to challenge the hegemony of the ubiquitous Bach suites, which to my mind continue to be revered and over-played to the detriment of fine contributions to the genre by other composers past and present. The titles of the nine movements, added "after the fact, as when parents christen their babies", are not greatly helpful for listening.

The Double Concerto for Violin & 'Cello also celebrates friendship with the two soloists, and it is a splendid contribution to that genre.

Rorem deliberately keeps the scoring plain, eschewing harps and percussion, to him "at best mere decoration, at worst immoral". Again, the sections were titled during composition "to get the juices flowing", but should be taken to connote "what the listener chooses". It is really abstract music, tonally based but full of originality in its treatment.

Ned Rorem is a composer who has come into his own in later life and is well worth exploring in the Naxos American Classics series.

Peter Grahame Woolf

(See also Ned Rorem's songs.)