William Bolcom is a splendidly eclectic composer and a brilliant keyboard partner for singers. He finds just the right tone for each of the many poems by his compatriots. The heart of the selection is I will breathe a mountain, including Emily Dickinson's macabre Bustle in a House, Swenson's Night Practice and Elizabeth Bishop's compassionate description of a venerable fish, brought out of water with 'five old pieces of fish-line hanging from his lip', and which the poet returned to the deep. William Blake's Sweet Mary, who has to 'humble her beauty' has a contemporary ring to it (q.v. Naxos' release of Bolcom's magnus opus, Songs of Innocence and of Experience - 8.559165).
This Naxo CD is compelling, though maybe not to everyone's taste. Recorded in England in the last days of 2004, Farley's spontaneity is preserved on disc, and she even strays occasionally from the exact texts in some of the 34 songs. Their styles are eclectic, from cabaret songs which really need to be heard in the right milieu, to thoughtful art songs which are better listened to at home with the words on your lap.
Copyright © 2005, Peter Grahame Woolf