Remembering Ned Rorem

Ned Rorem, the American composer and diarist, passed away on November 18 at his home on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. He was 99.

Born in Richmond, Indiana, Rorem composed three symphonies, numerous concertos, and other orchestral works, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Air Music (1974). Additionally, he contributed a host of operas, choral music, and chamber works. Yet, he will be remembered most as the composer of song. The esteemed choral conductor, Robert Shaw, declared Rorem to be “the greatest art-song composer of his time.” Rorem’s over 500 songs furthered the rich tradition of composers such as Schubert, Brahms, Hugo Wolf, Mahler, and Fauré into the twentieth century. Ned Rorem will also be remembered for his published diaries, essays, and musical commentary.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Here is Ned Rorem’s 1947 setting of Robert Frost’s famous poem. Flowing lines in the piano suggest the narrator’s solitary wanderings which include “miles to go before I sleep.” The shake of harness bells can be heard in three bright chords.

Ferry Me Across the Water

Christina Rossetti’s haunting 1872 nursery rhyme contains allusions to the voyage of the dead across the River Styx. Rorem’s quietly hypnotic setting is an excerpt from the 1981 cycle, The Nantucket Songs. 

Concerto for English Horn and Orchestra: III. Recurring Dream

A songlike quality can be heard in the instrumental works of Ned Rorem. Floating on a gentle, distant ostinato, Recurring Dream comes at the center of Rorem’s five-movement Concerto for English Horn and Orchestra. The New York Philharmonic commissioned the Concerto to commemorate its sesquicentennial anniversary. It was premiered in 1994 by Thomas Stacy and the Philharmonic, under the direction of Kurt Masur.

Here is Stacy’s 1995 recording with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra:

Arguably, no artist grows up: If he sheds the perceptions of childhood, he ceases being an artist.

-Ned Rorem 

Recordings

  • Rorem: Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Susan Graham, Malcolm Martineau Amazon
  • Rorem: Ferry me across the water, Susan Graham, Malcolm Martineau Amazon
  • Rorem: Concerto for English Horn and Orchestra, Thomas Stacy, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra newworldrecords.org

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

2 thoughts on “Remembering Ned Rorem”

  1. Ned Rorem. I remember him for his music but also for his pronunciation of Ralph Vaughn Williams: Ralph, not Rafe. He was like one of the people, not using the tone of an uppity musician.
    I grew up in a very Czech Wisconsin small town where older adults still talked in Cheski, but in English they used English pronunciations. The head of the music department at the University of Wisconsin for many years was Raymond Dvorak. Speaking in English he pronounced his name Dvorak. He could be quite commanding, very precise, when conducting, but when talking he was one of the people.

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  2. Lovely – the songs are gorgeous and Susan Graham’s voice sublime. The final note she holds on “Ferry Me Across the Water” is breathtaking – stopped my world for a moment. I love learning too that Rorem’s songs continue the great tradition up to the present. Ahh – so much music, so little time!

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