YEATS SONGS (1977) is a collection of five of William Butler Yeats’ poems which were set in late 1977 at the request of bass-baritone Marvin Lehrman for his graduation recital. Mr. Lehrman performed them in February and March, 1978, with the composer at the piano. Baritone Andrew R. White, who performs the songs in this recording, has performed them at many concerts in the U.S. and Canada since 2010. The cycle features five of William Butler Yeats’ shorter lyrics in predominantly bitonal or atonal settings. The five texts, which were selected by the composer, are:
The Lover Pleads with his Friend for Old Friends
A Drinking Song
The Old Men Admiring Themselves in the Water
Yeats wrote these poems, along with many other poems and plays, for Maud Gonne, an English-born Irish revolutionary, feminist and actress and the inspiration for much of his early work. Despite more than one marriage proposal from Yeats, she turned him down and married someone else—as did he eventually. The song cycle pivots around A Drinking Song, the only one of the five in a lighter, albeit nostalgic mood. The remaining songs are arranged around it, balanced by content.
RENAISSANCE SONGS (1976) is a collection of five more songs written in 1976 based on Elizabethan poetry and which were first performed by tenor Bruce Bellingham in 1977 at a Music & Arts Institute concert accompanied by the composer. They were subsequently performed and recorded by tenor Gregory Wiest in Munich in 1993, and have had multiple performances by tenors, sopranos, and mezzo-sopranos since. Tenor Justin Marsh, who performs the songs in this recording, has sung the set in concert on multiple occasions over the past five years.
All of the poetic texts were written during the late 16th and early 17th centuries. The authors of the first two poems (Prisoners and The Silver Swan) have never been identified although many names have been suggested. The next three in the set are Aubade (John Donne), Bitter-Sweet (George Herbert), and A Fancy (Thomas Lodge).
4 songs on texts by Federico García Lorca (1, 2, 3, 5)
These songs on poems of Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936) were inspired by the poet’s rich and always-new dramatic images. I was thus compelled to use a fresh mix of figures and colors, fluctuating dynamics and register, simple melodies together with complex harmonies - all with the intention of expressing multiple - often mysterious - layers of meaning.
1. New Songs
I thirst for fragrance. I thirst for new songs,
free of moons or lilies, free of withered loves.
A song of tomorrow that will stir the tranquil waters of the future.
2. New Songs 2
A resplendent and tempered song,
pure of regrets or anguish and pure of fanciful dreams.
Song without lyrical flesh, filling silence with laughs.
A song reaching the spirit of the winds,
a song finally resting in the joy of the eternal heart.
The clear fountain asks for lips and the wind for sighs.
My heart rests by the cool fountain.
To it the water of the fountain sang its song!
My heart tumbles into the cool fountain.
And the water takes it away, singing with joy.
4. Water (Hermann Claudius)
I walk to the river’s bank before the night
to watch there for a passing minute.
My soul has something of the water in it
that I should be so lifted by the sight.
But see, the early stars are out below me and shine back again.
The field of olive trees opens and shuts like a fan.
Over the olive grove is a deep sky and a dark rain of cold stars.
By the riverbank, reeds and darkness tremble, the grey air ripples.
The olive trees are full of shrieks.
A flock of captive birds that move their very long tails in the shadow.
6. Deep in the Heavens (Ricarda Huch)
Deep in the heavens one final star sadly grows pale.
A nightingale sings...far, far.
7. That Windless Hour (James Joyce)
His soul was waking slowly, fearing to wake wholly.
It was that windless hour of dawn, when madness wakes
and strange plants open to the light, and the moth flies silently.
8. Poem of Ecstasy (Alexander Scriabin)
I resurrect all you terrors of the past, all monsters and horrible visions. I give you full flower!! Open wide the dragon’s pasture! I summon you to life, hidden longings - you, sunken in the somber depths of creative spirit. You timid embryos of life!
A long spiritual poem written by the composer Scriabin in 1904, and the basis for his Symphony No. 4, also called “Poem of Ecstasy.” The ideas/images are drawn from Russian mysticism, Buddhism, Christianity, and the song recalls the moment when ancestors (“monsters,” “horrible visions,” “creative spirits”) are summoned to awaken our world and give deeper meaning to life. For Scriabin, the artist’s calling is to be a messenger in this apocalyptic event, expressed through love, ecstasy, and creativity.
9. The Leaves Murmur in the Wind (anonymous, 15th/16th-century Spain)
The leaves murmur in the wind, and to their sound I sleep in the shade.
A mild wind blows lightly and softly, that moves the ship of my thoughts.
And to their sound I sleep in the shade.
The song was inspired by the poetry’s lyrical, sensual vision. I used fleeting harmonic colors, simple melodies, letting the poem sing itself.
10. My Entire Life Before Me (Louis Phillips)
Oh to be sixteen again, and in love - and entirely miserable.
Smearing evening skies with maudlin break-free of gravity.
My entire life before me - like one of those maps,
That never gets properly folded.
Oh to be sixteen again.
This poem is from the much-published New York poet, Louis Phillips, a childhood friend. It’s wistful, light, dark, nostalgic - i.e., alive. The music begins with an ancient hornpipe tune, and continues simply and tunefully throughout, to reflect the universal nature of the images.
THREE SONATINAS (2014) evolved from a number of different piano sketches over a period of several years. Each sonatina has its own unique character: the first, graceful dance; the second, ornamentation and flowing counterpoint; the third, energetic humor.
THE HIPPOCAMPUS’ MONOLOGUE (2013) is the aria which closes the first act of the opera Rosetta’s Stone, a collaborative work conceived by Norwegian composer and writer Oded Ben-Horin for a team of creative artists. The librettists were Ben-Horin (Norway) and John F. McGrew (U.S.) and the composers were John G. Bilotta (U.S.) and Jostein Stalheim (Norway). An outgrowth of Ben-Horin’s “Write a Science Opera” methodology for young students, Rosetta’s Stone is envisioned as a neuroscience opera combining the artistic expression of scientific concepts with the drama of one man’s decline into Alzheimer’s. The primary characters are a music professor and Rosetta, one of his students, supported by a six-voice Greek chorus of brain regions—the Cortex, Thalamus, Hippocampus, Amygdala, Cerebellum, and Brain Stem.
The second part of the opera’s first act focuses on Rosetta’s relationship with and concerns about her professor. Hovering in the scene is Hippocampus who steps in to help the professor when his memory seems to fail him. She coaches him with words and gestures. Neurobiological research has shown that the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory storage and retrieval, is the first brain region to be damaged by Alzheimer’s. In The Hippocampus’ Monologue, which closes the scene, it becomes obvious that it is Hippocampus’ own accelerating destruction by the disease that underlies the professor’s cognitive problems and failures.
In this recording, soprano Cass Panuska, who created the role of Rosetta in the 2016 premier of the opera, steps into a different role and sings The Hippocampus’ Monologue accompanied by pianist Hadley McCarroll.
TWO SONGS ON AMERICAN POETRY (1976) were written in 1976 while studying at the San Francisco Music & Arts Institute. The first song in the set is Lost, a setting of a short poem by Carl Sandburg. The second is Prayer to Persephone, a setting of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poem. The two songs, different as they may seem, focus on the same fundamental theme—to find in ourselves, or to seek in others, the compassion to comfort the lost and helpless.
Lost creates a simple image: a boat, lost in the night mists of a lake, seeking harbor. Through a subtle shift of imagery, Sandburg equates this with a child seeking a mother’s comfort. Millay’s Prayer to Persephone is also about a search for comfort but it is expressed directly by the poet to Persephone. While the Sandberg poem is a description of what the poet sees and how what he sees resonates in human experience, the youthful Millay poem is a first-hand account of her sorrow and sense of helplessness after the death of a friend. Millay appeals to Persephone, mortal to mortal, woman to woman, to find the compassion to offer a mother’s comfort to a girl who, like Persephone herself, has been ripped from the world of the living and left a shadow in the eternal twilight of Hell.
These songs were first performed in 1977 by tenor Bruce Bellingham at a Music & Arts Institute concert with the composer at the piano. They are sung on this recording by soprano Cass Panuska accompanied by pianist Hadley McCarroll.
Sonata fLux, for piano
1. Moto Atlantico – the motion, energy, and beauty of the Atlantic Ocean -
torrential, peaceful, mysterious, colorful, rhythmic.
2. fLight of the Firefly – following the light and movement of this electric
creature through the use of fresh piano execution, including fluttering across
the tops of the keys, moving through notes that are already down, as though
a firefly were actually affecting the piano keys with its flashes and wings.
3. Rondo a Pollock is inspired by the swirling, dripping fluidity of Jackson
Pollock’s “action painting” technique - all motion and color. The act of composing it
actually produced a sensation of painting in that style, and the player brings those
Pollockesque sweeps to the performance. The movement also makes use of the polka
(suggested by the title), with its insistent dance-like rhythms and a history that
includes Chopin, Hummel, Kuhlau, Lipinski, and the alla polacca movement of the
Beethoven Triple Concerto.
The capital L in the title word fLux brings us “Lux” (light).
The capital L in fLight, mvt 2, brings us “Light.”
© NAVONA RECORDS LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Navona Records offers listeners a fresh taste of today's leading innovators in orchestral, chamber, instrumental, and experimental music as well as prime pieces of classic repertoire. Our music is meticulously performed by the finest musicians and handpicked to ensure the most rewarding listening experience.
223 Lafayette Road
North Hampton NH 03862
press (at) parmarecordings.com
603.758.1718 x 151