The Cloisters

Composer(s): Arthur Shepherd, Conrad Susa, Ben Weber, John Corigliano
Album Title: The Cloisters 
Cat. No.: 80327
Genre: Classical
Description: Vocal works by John Corigliano, Arthur Shepherd, Conrad Susa, and Ben Weber

Henry Herford, baritone; Robin Bowman, piano

The vocal music on this recording documents three generations of American music, each characterized by its own ideals yet shaped by its relationship to the past. Heard together on one disc, this music provides a glimpse of the rapid and often radical aesthetic upheavals that American music has undergone during the twentieth century.

The three settings by Arthur Shepherd (1880-1958), “Golden Stockings,” “To a Trout,” and “Virgil,” were composed shortly before World War II and exhibit a sensitive understated lyricism reminiscent of the songs of Vaughn Williams and Peter Warlock. The Ways, by
Ben Weber (1916-1979), dates from 1961 and illustrates his somewhat austere yet undeniably expressive compositional style.

The Cloisters is one John Corigliano's earlier works, dating from 1965, and is an excellent example of the mix of extroversion and rich lyricism that characterized his music of this period. The four poems touch on romantic moods and picturesque images inspired by the Cloisters, a museum of medieval art at the northern end of Manhattan. The third song, “Christmas at the Cloisters,” is dedicated to the late gospel singer, Marion Williams.

Hymns for the Amusement of Children by Conrad Susa (b.1935) were composed in 1972, set to texts by Christopher Smart, an eighteenth-century English poet whose religious fanaticism often landed him in prisons and asylums. While intended as moral instruction, the poems are also light and entertaining. Susa has cloaked them in diverting modern dress, with prominent use of popular music idioms. In fact, each song was composed with an admired pop singer or two in mind: respectively, they are Harry Belafonte, Elton John, Judy Collins, Louis Armstrong, Al Green and Johnny Mathis, Roberta Flack, and Barbra Streisand. 
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