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Ricky Ian Gordon (b.1956): Rappahannock County; Late Afternoon / Walters, Sherman, Tuell, Moreno, Lattimore. Ricky Ian Gordon, piano

Album Summary

>Gordon, Ricky I. : Rappahannock County, song cycle for voices & theater orchestra
>Gordon, Ricky I. : Late Afternoon, song cycle for mezzo-soprano & piano
Performers Conductor Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Inspired by diaries, letters, and personal accounts from the 1860s, Rappahannock County is a music-theatre work which movingly and dramatically commemorates the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. The location of the Rappahannock River as a border between North and South is a metaphor for the region's many conflicts. Performed by a cast of five singers who play over 30 roles, the piece brings this dramatic historical period to life in songs which express the devastating impact of the Civil War on all of the people who endured it. Ricky Ian Gordon's music has been described as 'caviar for a world gorging on pizza' ( The New York Times), and Rappahannock Countyhas been commended for its 'effusiveness and accessibility' by The Washington Post .

American Record Guide, November/December 2013
This is a really fine work. I would think it a very appropriate choice for a conservatory program. Mr Gordon's music is pleasant - perhaps the best word is unobtrusive; it does not detract from the poetry. The songs are well sung by mezzo Margaret Lattimore, accompanied by Mr Gordon. Actually I find the composer's accompaniments more interesting than the vocal line. The recording is accompanied by a handsome booklet, with texts, information on the artists, and informative short essays by Mr Campbell and Mr Gordon.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Harrison Opera House, Norfolk, Virginia, USA (2011-04-12&2011-04-16&2011-).


Beautiful new American opera
The Civil War and the human side of it has been receiving a lot of attention lately. The Spielberg movie "Lincoln", the novel turned movie and soon to turn opera by Jennifer Higdon "Cold Mountain" is another prime example of artistic response to the series of events that nearly destroyed and ultimately recreated this country. This new opera by Ricky Ian Gordon offers another prime look at these events. In this case, Gordon's libretto, by Mark Campbell, takes a fairly specific look at actual characters who lived through the war and reconstruction in Rappahannock County, Virginia. The characters and how Gordon makes them come to life are directly the result of the discovery of some of their actual letters and diaries. The work, itself, was commissioned for the present production and artists of the Virginia Arts Festival and the Virginia Opera in 2010. The opera is divided into scenes that correspond to the time line suggested by the primary documents; secession, war and rehabilitation. Rather than paint any literal dramaturgy with a few protagonists that we follow from start to finish, we are given a series of soliloquy, duets, trios and ensemble with a large number of characters who reflect on the painful or bittersweet memories as are extracted - frequently thematically - from the found artifacts. The result is a very pretty and instantly likable opera that places its emphasis on melodies and moods and sounds a lot like music theater in places. Gordon made a big splash and for similar reasons with his "The Grapes of Wrath" after the Steinbeck novel for the Minnesota Opera. He went on to acquire an OBIE Award for his "Orpheus and Euridice" for Lincoln Center. I personally think that Mr. Gordon's music has much more in common with Stephen Sondheim than with some of the more current "contemporary classical" composers who have made their name in opera, such as Tobias Picker; but what of it? The performances here are golden, tuneful and well sung with plenty of "stagy" verve. This is a most likeable work and does succeed at placing the narrative of the Civil War into the context of some very ordinary folks sharing their experiences. A very important and serious bonus on this two disc set is the inclusion of Gordon's song cycle "Late Afternoon" on texts by three American poets. The texts are picturesque and melancholic; as the work was written within months of the death of Ricky Ian Gordon's life partner, Jeffrey Grossi. There is an understandable pathos and longing within the words and the music softened by some beautiful and reminiscent moments. The cycle is composed for mezzo-soprano, though, not a male voice and Margaret Lattimore offers a clear, clean and memorable performance. The more I hear of the music of Ricky Ian Gordon the more I like. It is not correct to view his music as "typical" opera but it is 'operatic' and exceptionally well written. "Rappahannock County" offers a wholly new approach to this most serious subject and I recommend this strongly!
Submitted on 05/28/13 by Dan Coombs 
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Works Details

>Gordon, Ricky I. : Rappahannock County, song cycle for voices & theater orchestra
  • Performers: Faith Sherman (Mezzo Soprano); Mark Walters (Flugelhorn); Matthew Tuell
  • Conductor: Rob Fischer
  • Ensemble: Virginia Arts Festival Orchestra
  • Notes: Harrison Opera House, Norfolk, Virginia, USA (2011-04-12&2011-04-16&2011-)
  • Running Time: 8 min. 30 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Vocal
  • Written: 2009-2010

>Gordon, Ricky I. : Late Afternoon, song cycle for mezzo-soprano & piano
  • Performers: Margaret Lattimore (Mezzo Soprano); Ricky Gordon (Piano)
  • Running Time: 23 min. 37 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Vocal
  • Written: 2001