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Walter Simmons
Fanfare, June 2004

"Jose Serebrier deserves credit for allowing us to become familiar with these rarely heard works, while the Bournemouth Symphony provides them with a solid orchestral showcase."

John Sunier
Audiophile Audition, February 2004

"Serebrier is to be commended for bringing this re-discovered music (Nos. 1 & 2 haven't been heard anywhere for years) to collectors' attention."

Justin Davidson
Newsday, October 2003

"The conductor Jose Serebrier has recently exhumed Rorem's first three symphonies, all from the 1950s, and recorded them for the Naxos label. They are bright and beguiling works. His Symphony No. 1, especially, bursts with vigorous open-air themes reminiscent of Copland, as well as Dvorak's melodic odes to the "New World." At certain moments, it has the lyric sweep and visual vividness of the era's best film music. In the second movement, Rorem nods in the direction of bebop - or rather the Broadway version of bebop. He appropriates the jaunty syncopations and percussive exclamation marks of Leonard Bernstein's less ponderous scores, without approaching Bernstein's tart, danceable charm."

David Hurwitz, August 2003

"This stuff is simply gorgeous. Ned Rorem's symphonies are shot through with long, lyrical melodies that some observers might relate to his gifts as a songwriter, but strike me as more likely inspired by the "Sunrise" sequence from Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe--music so strikingly lovely that the beauty it describes can only exist in the world of fantasy and make-believe. The First Symphony ends with such a melody, and the long first movement of the Second features another about halfway through, and then can't seem to let go of it (which is lucky for us!). This latter work has quite an interesting form: a very long first movement followed by two very short ones--exactly the same as Shostakovich's Sixth Symphony, though Rorem's second movement is slow while Shostakovich's is quick. Still, there are so few examples of this odd but effective structure in the symphonic literature that the comparison springs immediately to mind.

Ever since I had the opportunity to hear Rorem's Third Symphony in its 1959 premiere under Leonard Bernstein (in the New York Philharmonic's American music collection) I have been convinced that it should be considered one of the great American symphonies. While the first two symphonies here receive their recorded premieres, comparisons between Bernstein and Serebrier are inevitable (Abravanel also recorded the symphony, and a kind reader informs me that it's currently available on Vox. I'm ashamed to say that I have not heard it, but certainly will very shortly). Briefly put, Bernstein takes a little more time over the Andante fourth movement than does Serebrier, and a bit less over the quick second and fifth movements. The differences aren't large, but Bernstein's rendition might be said to emphasize the music's "American" extrovert qualities while Serebrier (no less rhythmically acute) reveals a bit more of Rorem's "French" side--his elegance and richly polished musical surfaces. God knows the music thrives under both conductors, as it could and should under many others.

Given the fact that all three works were recorded in a mere two days, the quality of the results that Serebrier gets is pretty amazing and stands as a tribute to the professionalism of the Bournemouth Symphony. The orchestra's playing offers both grace and power where necessary, and the ensemble sounds completely at home in the idiom. It may be that Serebrier doesn't push quite as hard as he could in some of the more boisterous moments, but given the importance of the music and the general level of quality (and absolutely first-class sonics), it would be a crime to deny this extraordinary release anything less than the highest possible recommendation. As a birthday gift to the composer in this, his 80th year, I can't imagine a finer gift, and I hope that he gets as much pleasure from it as he has given me--and will give to you as well. 10/10 Artistic Quality, 10/10 Sound Quality"

Jake Stockinger
The Capital Times (Madison)

"American bad-boy composer Ned Rorem keeps rising in critics' esteem. He will come to Madison in late March to celebrate his 80th birthday with the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the world premiere of a Percussion Concerto with Evelyn Glennie. Naxos, the exploratory budget line, has released three or four CDs of Rorem's vocal and instrumental music in its "American Masters" series."

Jim Svejda
National Public Radio

JIM SVEJDA'S 2003 Guide to Gift Recordings

John Fleming
St. Petersburg Times

"The classical music world thinks of Ned Rorem as the pre-eminent American composer of art songs.

While Rorem the composer will be remembered most for his songs, he has also written widely in other genres, including symphonies, concertos, chamber music, choral works, operas and ballets. He won the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for his orchestral suite Air Music. Now Naxos has released a pair of well-performed discs of his instrumental music.

Rorem, who turned 80 in October, lived in Paris from 1949 to 1958, and his Third Symphony relates to those days. The composer has said he was "actively sad" when he wrote the five-movement piece as he prepared to move back to the United States; the slow fourth movement constitutes "a farewell to France."

His first three symphonies, played by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under Jose Serebrier, are all from the '50s, and they are something of a discovery, blissfully listenable in a sweet, romantic sort of way, with a very high level of craftsmanship in the orchestration.

Of the chamber pieces, performed by the British ensemble Fibonacci Sequence, the most enjoyable is Bright Music (1987), a suite for flute, two violins, cello and piano. The five movements, Rorem says, were inspired by typically eclectic sources, including Picasso's blue period, a Chopin sonata and a Fandango based on the image of "a rat inside a can." A

Time Out New York

"Best in CDs 2003"

Mark Stryker
Detroit Free Press

"Though Ned Rorem has long been considered America's finest living composer of art songs, his orchestral scores have never gotten their due. So on the cusp of his 80th birthday, it's a special pleasure to hear this Naxos survey, which includes the premiere recordings of the First and Second symphonies (1950 and '56) and a persuasive reading of the Third (1958), the most substantial of the lot.

Rorem's lyrical melodic gifts, filtered through a French-inspired terseness of expression, give the five-movement Third a bracing, athletic punch, even its sensuous slow movements. The earlier works are more informal but offer Rorem's trademark tonal beauty and guilt-free pleasures. If Detroit Symphony music director Neeme Jarvi is looking for worthy but underexposed repertoire of his adopted country, Rorem's Third Symphony would be an excellent place to start. FOUR STARS out of 4 stars."

Alex Ross
The New Yorker

"Rorem's music has tended to thrive on independent labels; among the best current releases are 'Bright Music' and the three symphonies, on Naxos."

Anastacia Tcioulcas

"A highlight [of Rorem's birthday year] was the recent release of Rorem's three symphonies, played by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Jose Serebrier. Kudos to Naxos for finally giving these works their due."

Anastasia Tscioulcas
Billboard & WNYC

"One of Top 10 Picks of 2003."

Lawrence Johnson
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

"Essential Rorem...This recent disc offers overdue premiere recordings of Rorem's first two symphonies with the better-known Third, and the two earlier works are real discoveries. There is a 1950s Americana feel in this music with its lean melancholy and some deft French elements, spiced by surprisingly boisterous finales."


"This very enterprising disc celebrates the 80th birthday of the American composer, Ned Rorem, which occurred in October 2003. It would be hard to imagine a better birthday present to a composer. Rorem has become best known for his songs, and deservedly so. However, it's scandalous that these three engaging and accessible symphonies have fallen into neglect since each was first performed. Indeed, it would appear that these recordings represent the first performances that any of these symphonies has received for many years.

Jose Serebrier and the Bournemouth players prove to be splendid advocates of these important scores and I'm tremendously impressed that Naxos has had the courage and discernment to make recordings of them available to a wide audience. Anyone who cares about the survival of the symphony in modern times should hear these performances, which are presented in first-rate sound. Excellent notes by the conductor, to which the composer also has contributed, further enhance the attractions of the release. Bravo, Naxos! Happy Birthday, Ned Rorem."

Wynne Delacoma
Chicago Sun-Times

"[Rorem] is one of those rare artists who has managed to both expend and save his own talent judiciously over a long, distinguished career. Through difficult decades in which serialism's sharp dissonances and convoluted shapes dominated the scene, Rorem continued to compose in his own more harmonious, tonally grounded voice.

Thriving beyond the rigid rules of composers he gleefully calls "serial killers,'' he has emerged, somewhat reluctantly, as a grand old man in the field. Best known for his more than 400 songs -- many of them marvels of subtle restlessness with texts by such poets as Auden, Blake, Whitman and Dickinson -- he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for an orchestral suite, "Air Music.'' In honor of his birthday year, Naxos has recently released the first recording of his three symphonies with Jose Serebrier conducting the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Among the numerous Rorem celebrations scheduled this season are a two-week "Roremania'' festival at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, whose faculty he joined in 1980, and the German premiere of his Cello Concerto given in Munich on his birthday itself."

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