Rorem: Double Concerto, After Reading Shakespeare

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Ned Rorem describes this performance of his Double Concerto for Violin and Cello as "perfect", so it would be presumptuous to challenge his opinion of it technically. Certainly the playing of Jaime Laredo and Sharon Robinson is excellent, as is that of the IRIS Orchestra under Michael Stern. Like some of Rorem's other concertante works, this takes the form of a series of short movements, eight in all, save that one of them (Conversation at Midnight) isn't so short, lasting for nearly a quarter of an hour, or about half the concerto's total time. The two soloists offer admirably focused playing here, with a real feeling of dialog both between themselves and with the orchestra. The scoring is Spartan--strings, eight woodwinds, and four brass--but there's no lack of color or incident. In short, this is a lovely addition to the string concerto repertoire, and a terrific piece for chamber orchestras to consider programming.

What keeps this disc from getting the highest rating is an admittedly personal issue, one that you may not share. After Reading Shakespeare, a suite for solo cello, was also written for Sharon Robinson, and it is very sympathetically performed (listen, for example, to how vividly she characterizes "Titania and Oberon"). Nevertheless, the pairing of an orchestral piece with this most chamber-like of chamber compositions strikes me as unconvincing, coming as it does after the concerto. In his notes Rorem emphasizes the fact that the movement titles of this piece should not be taken literally, the music having preceded some of them. If so, then why use them at all? And why suggest as opening and closing movements such weighty subjects as "Lear" and "Othello and Iago"? They really beg the question of whether or not Rorem's inspiration is up to Shakespeare's, and we don't want to go there, do we? There are times when composers might do better to resist the temptation to offer verbal clues, even if they are perfectly valid ones. Still and all, the music and performances themselves are self-recommending to the composer's many admirers, and on that basis I can recommend this fine new release without further qualification.

--David Hurwitz,

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 8559316

  • UPC: 636943931622

  • Label: Naxos

  • Composer: Ned Rorem

  • Conductor: Michael Stern

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Iris Chamber Orchestra

  • Performer: Jaime Laredo, Sharon Robinson