American Anthem

Audio CD / 1999

Opera singers venturing into non-classical territory can easily produce embarrassing results: mannered, over-inflected performances that betray the spirit of the music. Fortunately, Nathan Gunn has the kind of voice, the technique, and the sensibility to persuasively put across the variety of American music on this collection, which includes folk songs, Tin Pan Alley, cabaret songs, art songs, and contemporary pop-influenced ballads. Gunn’s baritone has the flexibility to embody the refinement required by the songs by Barber and Copland, the ruggedness that suits Brother, can you spare a dime?, and the unaffected simplicity appropriate for the folk songs, such as Shenandoah and The lass from the low countree. Gunn’s voice is full-bodied and distinctively masculine, with a ringing top and plenty of solidity at the lowest reaches. Equally at home in the various styles, Gunn invests each with the right character. He brings freshness and depth of feeling to the standard recital fare, such as Barber’s Nocturne and Sure on this shining night and selections from Copland’s Old American Songs, and a sly whimsicality to Bolcom’s Fur and Black Max … Contemporary new art song is strongly represented with works by John Musto and Gene Scheer; Musto’s lovely, wistful, witty setting of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Recuerdo” is a standout. Pianist Kevin Murphy provides an energetic and responsive accompaniment. EMI’s sound is clean, lively, and present. (