We join with well-wishers around the world in sending 90th birthday greetings on October 23rd to the American composer Ned Rorem.
A prolific composer in all musical genres, Rorem is especially admired for his body of over 400 art songs, many of which are now are staple fare for singers (“the world’s best…” Time Magazine). His entire oeuvre, however, has attracted numerous awards throughout his distinguished career; his prodigious talent has attracted many commissions that have been premièred by the world’s greatest performers.
Ned Rorem is one of America’s most distinguished composers. He is an acclaimed Pulitzer Prize-winner who has been hailed by Time magazine as “the world’s best composer of art songs.” Of his own work he has said, “I conceive all music vocally…it is always the singer within me crying to get out.” This recording features his complete Piano Album I, a series of small-scale but significant piano compositions dating from 1978 to 2001. These and the set Six Friends were largely written as gifts to friends and colleagues, forming musical sketch books which are filled with miniature masterpieces. They have echoes in Rorem’s larger works, and stand in their own right as beautiful gems which create an atmosphere of tranquility and heartfelt tenderness.
Listen to an excerpt: On His Birthday
Examples of his output, from symphonic works to chamber pieces, can be found in the Naxos catalogue. Representative of his reputation as a consummate miniaturist is this month’s new release of piano music performed by Carolyn Enger (Naxos 8.559761). The disc brings together 33 miniatures written over a period of almost as many years, a number of which were to reappear transformed in works for other instruments, another Rorem trait.
Rorem’s music speaks with an affecting lyricism, best described by the composer himself:
“I conceive all music vocally. Whatever my music is written for—tuba, tambourine, tubular bells—it is always the singer within me crying to get out.”