Festival Miami celebrates
Ned Rorem's eightieth birthday,
and LAWRENCE BUDMEN was impressed
Ned Rorem is one of the few composers to achieve distinction both as a musician and a man of letters. Rorem studied composition with the distinguished American composer Bernard Wagenaar at New York's Julliard School and privately with composer-critic Virgil Thomson. He has been greatly influenced by the music and culture of France. His nine years in Paris were chronicled in Paris Diary, the first of many books and essays. Rorem's compositional output has been prolific -- numerous song cycles and vocal works, orchestral works, chamber music, and operas. He is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for music and has been the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees. On 23 September at the University of Miami's Gusman Hall in Coral Gables, Florida, Festival Miami 2003 presented 'Happy Birthday Ned Rorem' -- an eightieth birthday salute to this distinguished creative artist.
The Bergonzi String Quartet. From left to right: Glenn Basham, Scott Flavin, Pamela McConnell and Ross Harbaugh. Photo: Hinkle
Rorem's String Quartet No 2 (1950) is clearly the work of a gifted young composer who is enchanted by all things French. The opening Lento; Allegro ma cantabile bears a strong resemblance to the first movement of Ravel's quartet. The third movement Allegro molto could well be one of Ravel's Valses Nobles et Sentimentales -- so lilting are its Gallic perfumes. The Pastoral speaks in the lyrical terms of Samuel Barber while the concluding Lento has a decidedly British tinge -- the long-limbed melodic curves of Vaughan Williams may have been at work on the composer's imagination. This is enchanting music. The lovely, unabashedly romantic melodies beguile the listener. The frankly old fashioned lyrical bent of this music is its real strength. The Bergonzi String Quartet gave this score a lush, rich toned performance. There was rhythmic propulsion and vigor in the fast sections, yet the quartet never exaggerated the music's pulse. Ross Harbaugh's golden cello tone was a tower of strength, matched by Glenn Basham's singing first violin. Violinist Scott Flavin and violist Pamela McConnell also played with intensity and dedication in this splendid revival of a lovely work.
Copyright © 13 November 2003
Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA