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MusicWeb International, February 2012

That Rorem writes attractive, listener-friendly music is clearly demonstrated by this gently atmospheric, introspective and thoroughly genial programme from Smith and co. Smith gives a master-class in flute technique and presentation, never let down by his various co-performers who are no mere accompanists.

Sound quality is very good, all the more so considering the age of most of the recordings. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review, November 2011

This (+++) Naxos CD is a fine addition to the Rorem discography and will be of considerable interest to listeners who mainly know Rorem through his vocal music. Read complete review

Donald Rosenberg
The Classical Review, October 2011

The alluring works on this recording of flute chamber music by Ned Rorem span more than six decades, confirming the American composer’s resolve to sustain an individual style in which lyricism and elegance are paramount. The disc’s most recent piece, Four Prayers (2006), has moments of pastoral beauty that also suffuse the oldest, Mountain Song (1949).

In each work, Rorem evokes distinctive atmospheres, partly through diversity of instrumentation. The two pieces mentioned above are scored for flute and piano. The remaining works place flute in conversation with various combinations of piano, guitar, cello and harp, allowing for myriad shadings and dramatic interactions.

A sense of narrative, abstract or otherwise, pervades Rorem’s writing.

The Trio for flute, cello and piano (1960) expands the sonic and expressive possibilities, placing the musicians in dark, playful and whirlwind ensemble and solo situations. In Four Prayers, Rorem’s gift for devising idyllic and soaring melodic lines is at its most generous, as is his ability to venture briefly into pungent territory (those crashing piano clusters in the ‘Third Prayer’).

Throughout the disc, flutist Fenwick Smith, a former member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, sails through the technical demands while demonstrating masterful command of tone color and breath control. He teams with a roster of top-flight collaborators: guitarist David Leisner, cellist Ronald Thomas, pianist Mihae Lee, and harpist Ann Hobson Pilot.

Allan Pulker
The WholeNote, October 2011

Former Boston Symphony Orchestra flutist, Fenwick Smith is joined by pianist Mihae Lee, guitarist David Leisner, harpist Ann Hobson Pilot and cellist Ronald Thomas to play five of Rorem’s compositions. Smith navigates the varied challenges of the music with aplomb: in Queen Mab from the 1977 Romeo and Juliet suite for flute and guitar for instance, he uses dynamics effectively to build excitement, integrates flutter tonguing seamlessly, all the while maintaining great rapport with his collaborator. In …it was the nightingale from the same suite, we hear him as an accomplished virtuoso flutist, but for me the most moving moment in the whole CD was his rendering of Last Prayer from Four Prayers, written a mere five or six years ago, the last track on the disc. The performances can be considered definitive: according to the liner notes “Rorem worked closely with” and was “honoured to be so dazzlingly represented by” the performers on this recording.

Kudos to Naxos for bringing much deserved recognition to Ned Rorem’s work as a composer; I hope it will result in these works appearing more frequently in flute recital programmes everywhere.

Blair Sanderson, September 2011

Flutist Fenwick Smith presents Rorem’s music with a round tone, clear phrasing, and polished execution, and his performances with pianist Mihae Lee, guitarist David Leisner, cellist Ronald Thomas, and harpist Ann Hobson Pilot all reflect a gentle, introspective approach to the music… played with great sympathy and sincerity.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, September 2011

Ned Rorem is one of the great and prolific songwriters of the 20th century, who has stated that everything he composers is conceived in vocal terms. Born in the United States in 1923, his first mature studies took him to the Curtis Institute and New York’s Juilliard School, though it was his encounters with Copland at the summer school in Tanglewood and Vigil Thomson in New York that were his early influences. Moving to study in Paris with Honegger, followed by time spent in North Africa, Rorem was already thirty-five before he returned to the States to start building a career. He has toyed with a number of musical styles, as you will find in this disc’s moments of pungency, but tonality has been his motivating factor. The disc is devoted to music for flute and features the much recorded Fenwick Smith. It is a searching programme of musicality as it moves from the mellow lyric quality required in the Mountain Song, to the oft hard-hitting Trio dating from 1960 when Rorem was having flirtations with the Second Viennese School. Within the combination of flute and guitar only part of Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet, come within their dynamic compass, sadness and beauty being its ingredients. The first four works formed a disc released on the Etcetara Records in 1993, to which has been added Four Prayers completed in 2006, a score expressed with reverence and humility. The recorded balance has the flute forward of Mihae Lee’s piano partnership that has been so rewarding and often dazzlingly brilliant throughout the disc.

dmx, August 2011

…This new album contains Rorem’s lovely chamber music featuring the flute with guitar, cello, piano, and harp…

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