Admired as a versatile master of large forms such as operas, concertos, and symphonies, William Bolcom is more widely appreciated for his engaging performances and for his numerous songs and song cycles, composed over four decades. Bolcom's fascination with poetry of all stripes—from William Blake's mystical visions to the wry lyrics of Arnold Weinstein—has led him to compose highly varied entertainments, incorporating popular, classical, and modernist elements in a hybrid cabaret style that almost always works to the texts' advantage. Soprano Carole Farley has selected an assortment of lively songs, chiefly from the Bolcom/Weinstein collaborations Greatshot, Dynamite Tonite, Casino Paradise; the independent cycles, Songs to Dance, and I Will Breathe a Mountain; and small sets, such as the Tillinghast Duo and Three Songs from The Wind in the Willows. Farley is quite ebullient and brassy, and these attitudes usually work in the witty numbers, but her interpretations of the quieter songs suffer from a lack of subtlety and sweetness; what may sound effective on stage comes across on CD as somewhat overblown and harsh. However, Bolcom's playing is both precise and fluid, and possibly the most sensitive and responsive accompaniment any singer could want. Naxos provides good reproduction, though the venue sounds a little drafty and over-resonant.
© Blair Sanderson, All Music Guide
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