Ned Rorem, America’s foremost post–World War II enfant terrible composer and litterateur, turned 90 on October 23. One of the few 20th-century composers to embrace French rather than German aesthetics, Rorem has produced a substantive body of eloquent, keenly set songs, as well as minutely observed, lyrical contributions to the piano literature. His frank diaries—along with Gore Vidal’s work, some of the earliest and best evocations of gay life as it existed in New York and Paris—and precise criticism are equally notable achievements. Enduringly irascible and charming in print and conversation, Rorem is still a working artist and a valued teacher.
On Tuesday at Merkin Concert Hall, Steven Blier and Michael Barrett’s ever-refreshing New York Festival of Song—which has enjoyed a long, productive relationship with Rorem—hosts “Ned Is Ninety.” With the composer present as guest of honor, the concert will celebrate his manifold achievements. Blier and Barrett will accompany two engaging, textually responsive singers—mezzo Kate Lindsey and baritone Andrew Garland—in songs by Rorem and his stellar circle. Expect spicy diary entries as well.
Should you be unable to attend, console yourself with Naxos’s newly released CD of Rorem’s Piano Album (1978–2001) and Six Friends (2006–07). These collections of short, tenderly reflective piano pieces are played beautifully and insightfully by Carolyn Enger.—David Shengold