William Bolcom, composer
"After practically 20 years of trying, Leonard Slatkin has finally managed to get William Bolcom's massive symphonic cycle, a complete setting of William Blake's "Songs of Innocence and of Experience," recorded, and that is cause for celebration. Bolcom, a master of eclecticism, throws in even the kitchen sink in his nearly three-hour compendium of musical styles — from country and western to atonal contrapuntal — written for gargantuan forces. But the real accomplishment is the way the piece holds together, has a voice and really does encompass innocence and experience. Although the many vocal soloists are variable, the performance overall has just the right amount of energy and enthusiasm. " — Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times
"For anyone interested in the most important classical release of the year: William Bolcom, "Songs of Innocence and of Experience" (Naxos, three discs, $15). The long overdue first release of Bolcom's magnum opus, a 2 1/2 hour cantata setting of William Blake's poems, scored for a massive orchestra, chorus, soloists and rock band and rendered in a post-modern melange of classical styles, rock, soul, folk, madrigals, country, theater music and reggae." — Mark Stryker, Detroit Free Press
"It has taken 20 years for someone to produce a recording of one of the great American works of our time, William Bolcom's ''Songs of Innocence and of Experience."
The demands of the work are considerable: It requires an adult chorus, a chamber chorus, a children's chorus, a rock band, an expanded orchestra, and a dozen vocal soloists, ranging from opera singers to folk singers, a rock singer, and a narrator....The rewards of the work are even more considerable. Bolcom composed each of the songs in a different style, so the cycle becomes a kind of summary of musical history, and especially an encyclopedia of American music. There is nothing ventriloquial about this process: Whether Bolcom is writing a folk song or a rock song or a modernist song in 12-tone style or a choral anthem, he is always writing in his own voice, responding to a different kind of music that has been meaningful to him.
The recorded performance is thrilling, and there are important contributions by choruses, orchestra, and some extraordinary soloists, including sopranos Christine Brewer and Measha Brueggergosman, tenor Thomas Young, and the composer's wife, the inimitable chanteuse Joan Morris." —Richard Dyer, Boston Globe