ROREM: Selected Songs / Carole Farley, soprano; Ned Rorem, piano; Recorded Old North Church, Nantucket, MA (Naxos American Classics 8.559084).
2001 was a good year for Rorem's songs. First came Susan Graham and Malcolm Martineau with their selection of 32 and now here is the composer himself with one of his favoured sopranos...Carole Farley... Rorem has written over 250 songs and they never lack melodic interest or technical demands. Couched in a very personal language and exceptionally alive to the text, Rorem's directness is never obvious and his settings emerge organically...
Farley...plays more with the words, elongating her vowels, flirting with her intonation. Listen to her use of the word 'Damp' [in 'Orchids'] - it is plosive, heavily vowelled with an impersonation or acted delivery, immensely theatrical. The following song, the 'Serpent', emphasises, reinforces and amplifies their wildly differing approaches...Farley is again jazzier, fleeter, blowsier - in a word, more obvious. She seizes on words and savages them - listen to her violent assault on the word 'note' for example. Furthermore she is never afraid to coarsen her tone in the interests of full musical-literary effect.
Farley uses her instincts to commendable effect in songs such as Spenser's 'What if some little pain' - where Rorem hints at a ground bass - evidenced by her breathy 'doth' in the concluding line that shows her visceral and intelligent response to textual ambiguities... The gains of Farley's approach are ones of immediacy and directness, qualities that mirror Rorem's own compositional traits; it illustrates just what attracted him to the texts in the first place...don't forego the pleasure of Rorem's pianism in his own music...open the windows and feel the bracing air of Carole Farley.
Jonathan Woolf, Musicweb.uk.net
Here is a splendid and generous set of his songs performed by an accomplished singer -- with the composer at the piano...Farley gives thoughtful readings of all of these, and Rorem plays with cool precision.
Michael Anthony Star Tribune
An outstanding collection of no fewer than 32 of his songs, very beautifully and most idiomatically performed by Carole Farley, with the composer himself as her incomparable accompanist. The recording quality is very good throughout, and the provision of full texts and notes in the booklet add to the attractions of this inexpensive disc...This is a very important CD, which - in artistic terms alone - deserves wide circulation and success.
Robert Matthew-Walker, International Record Review
It was something of a coup for Naxos to persuade American composer Ned Rorem to record this selection of some of his finest songs with soprano Carole Farley, one of his regular collaborators and a hugely undervalued singer whose neglect by the big-name record companies is inexplicable. The disc is also a tour de force for Farley, who swivels between passionate declamation and flawless lyricism.
The Guardian (London)
Universally recognized as the greatest American composer of art songs, Rorem is represented here by a handy sampler of exquisite gems. All texts are provided, but are hardly needed because of the composer's transparent settings and Farley's clear and projecting delivery. Music and poem fuse into a new expression. Natural and engrossing.
Minnesota Public Radio