Composer Ricky Ian Gordon (born in 1956 in New York) is sometimes confused with Michael Gordon (born the same year in Florida). Our index has reviews of both composers lumped under the single heading of “Gordon”. The notes to this recording include a description of his music from a 2001 New York Times review that effectively summarizes the composer’s style: music that is “bursting with effervescence…blithely blurring the lines between art song and the high-end Broadway music of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim”. Yet however much he walks the tight-rope between high art and high entertainment. he always does it with extraordinary good taste. The songs also show a remarkable versatility. Not fully in either the art song or the Broadway-cabaret camps, most can be sung by singers in either style with equal effect, though this is not true of the five-song cycle of orchestral settings of poems by EE Cummings, And Flowers Pick Themselves, which requires a singer with real training. Soprano Melanie Hilton, a long-time friend of the composer, sings everything clearly and beautifully. She has more than enough vocal heft to match the density of the accompaniments supplied by the orchestra in the Cummings cycle, yet also is capable of the sensitivity needed to bring the smaller-scaled works across. Gordon, who accompanies at the piano, and the Michigan State Symphony under Raphael Jimenez, add greatly to the effect.
Texts and translations are included, and they reveal that the composer, like Ned Rorem, has an eye for a good lyric. If Gordon’s notes to the songs are sometimes a hit too personal. they are, at least, straight from the heart, as is all the music heard here.