But Yesterday is Not Today is a survey of the American art song over a period of almost fifty years. What is an American art song? In the words of Ned Rorem, generally considered America's leading song composer, " The genre may be defined as the musical setting of a lyric poem for one voice with piano accompaniment. The setting is by a specific American composer, as distinct from anonymous or collective authorship; is self-contained as distinct from, say, an aria that is part of a whole; and is distinct from approximately notated so-called popular songs (even such sturdy hits as Gershwin's or Sondheim's), that can be rendered by any voice in any arrangement at any speed. Art song is our answer to the German Lied or to the French mélodie..."
Eight composers are represented here, the well known (Samuel Barber, Aaron Copland, Paul Bowles, and Roger Sessions) and the not-so-famous (Theodore Chanler, John Duke, Israel Citkowitz, and Robert Helps). The choice of composers and songs illustrates the variety and vitality of a genre that in a previous generation could count among its exponents Leontyne Price, Phyllis Curtin, and Jennie Tourel. The songs encompass the broadest spectrum of emotions couched in musical language that mirrors their joy, sorrow, sadness, nostalgia, and humor. They are sensitively interpreted by two of the genre's most authoritative exponents, baritone Donald Gramm and soprano Bethany Beardslee. The accompanying 32-page program booklet by Ned Rorem contains one of the best available essays on American song as well as brief critiques of the composers and the songs, all written in his lucid and elegant style. Song texts included. Another classic reissue from the Recorded Anthology of American Music.