IVES: Songs – Gerald Finley, baritone/ Julius Drake, piano – Hyperion

by | Apr 15, 2008 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

IVES: Songs – Gerald Finley, baritone/ Julius Drake, piano – Hyperion CDA7644, 62:28 ****:

The British invasion continues with Gerald Finley’s latest incursion into down home Americana with the music of Charles Ives. Finley’s selections emphasize the more lyrical aspects of Ives’s music instead of some of the more acerbic moments. I was moderately happy with his Barber album reviewed on this site, so I must confess being a little surprised at hearing his Ives as more apt to the American tradition, since Barber is far more European in nature than the hymn tunes of Uncle Charlie.

There are still some issues here—Finley holds some notes with a straight-lined and near vibrato-less tone that often sounds flat to me, even though I don’t think it really is. And some of the tunes he simply does not dig into with the requisite panache and rugged individualism that Ives certainly requires. A good example is The Circus Band, one of the composer’s most thrilling and lustily American songs – pure Main Street if ever there was one. Finley sings the notes but displays an unemotional detachment that belies the purpose behind the song, childlike exuberance and wide-eyed wonder. Yet perhaps Finley takes Ives’s own recording of a song like They are There! to heart, a number that includes a dozen patriotic tunes and has to be sung with all of the enthusiasm a big time send off to WWI would muster. In this he is successful, as in the nicely done At the River, homespun, sentimental, and just a little bittersweet and depressing.

So I think there is progress being made here even though I am not convinced that Finley yet “gets” the idiom. But I certainly give him points for trying, a brave thing for an Englishman to attempt these songs. Hyperion’s sound by the way is close, well-lit and nicely enveloping.

On the Counter
The Circus Band
Two Little Flowers (and dedicated to them)
A Night Song
Down East
The See’r
Songs my mother taught me
In the Alley
They are There!
In Flanders Fields
The South Wind
My Native Land
The Children’s Hour
The World’s Wanderers
Slow March
Omens and Oracles
Those Evening Bells
The Last Reader
To Edith
At the River
A Christmas Carol
The Light that is felt
Romanzo (di Central Park)

— Steven Ritter

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