Classical CD Reviews

Silver Rain, Songs of Ricky Ian Gordon on poems by Langston Hughes – Nicole Cabell, sop./ Ricky Ian Gordon, p. – Blue Griffin

Ricky Ian Gordon as he should be heard.

Published on November 2, 2012

Silver Rain, Songs of Ricky Ian Gordon on poems by Langston Hughes – Nicole Cabell, sop./ Ricky Ian Gordon, p. – Blue Griffin

Silver Rain, Songs of Ricky Ian Gordon on poems by Langston Hughes – Nicole Cabell, soprano/ Ricky Ian Gordon, piano – Blue Griffin BGR253, 64:00 [Distr. by Albany] ****:

“Nicole Cabell, the 2005 Winner of the BBC Singer of the World Competition in Cardiff and Decca recording artist, is fast becoming one of the most sought-after lyric sopranos of today.” So ran the blurb on one website I visited, and I can’t say that this album persuades me otherwise. Cabell sings with authority and affection in this well-filled program of songs by composer Ricky Ian Gordon, a man whose music I praised but whose voice I panned some time ago.

Hearing how well Cabell gets to the essence of these songs, all done to poetry by Langston Hughes, who is quite the lyricist when it comes to poetry and whose work almost begs to be set to music, makes me wish that he had hooked up with her even earlier than their first meeting in 2001 when she was first getting started (she went on not long after to win the Cardiff “Singer of the World” award). Caball used some of Gordon’s songs in her audition for the Cardiff, and so has a long acquaintance with the composer and his idiom.

Gordon of course is quite the well-traveled composer who has written any number of shows, operas, and songs, along with much music for other non-vocal ensembles, and has worked with almost a who’s who of contemporary singers, currently working on an opera for the Metropolitan Opera. His music is tonal and eminently listenable, with influences from Gershwin to Sondheim and beyond, with the ability to set words as carefully knitted to the texts as another modern master, Ned Rorem, whose music is related to Gordon’s in its ease of presentation and breezy lyricism if not in its stylistic essence. The songs here are woven as a tapestry with the lines of Hughes’s poetry, each and every one highly effective. Sound is a little bloomy—the soprano is perhaps too well-placed microphone-wise—but nothing disturbing. This is a very enjoyable album, and I hope the two pair up for an encore.

SongList:

01 Heaven
02 In Time of Silver Rain
03 Harlem Night Song
04 Dream Variations
05 Stars
06 Love Song for Antonia
07 Port Town
08 Daybreak in Alabama
09 Dreams/Feet o’ Jesus
10 Song for a Dark Girl
11 Litany

Genius Child, a cycle of ten songs =
12 Winter Moon
13 Genius Child
14 Kid in the Park
15 To Be Somebody
16 Troubled Woman
17 Strange Hurt
18 Prayer
19 Border Line
20 My People
21 Joy

—Steven Ritter




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