Robert Schumann: Waldesgespräch (Conversation in the wood)

31 03 2009
Lorelei

"Great are the deceit and cunning of men"

On a late, cold evening a man rides through the woods. He meets a beautiful woman who tells him to leave. When he recognizes her as the Lorelei, she condemns him to remain lost in the woods forever. The last strains of the song return to the horn-call motive of the man, but he does not sing; his voice has been silenced.





Roger Quilter: Now sleeps the crimson petal

30 03 2009

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"The fire-fly wakens; waken thou with me"

There is a tenderness to this song which is quite fetching. The piano is light and delicate, gentle. The voice must also maintain a certain tender quality throughout. And yet, the love the singer feels is powerful, palpable, sensuous.





Ralph Vaughan Williams: The Call

29 03 2009

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"Such a heart as joys in love"

The fourth movement of Vaughan Williams’s Five Mystical Songs for choir and baritone soloist, full of light and festivity, calls to mind the joyful banquet of heaven.  I particularly enjoy the recording of the St. Paul’s Cathedral Choristers because the purity of the voices seems appropriate for the music.





Cécile Chaminade: L’anneau d’argent (The Silver Ring)

27 03 2009
Obstinate receiver of so many memories

"Obstinate receiver of so many memories"

Shimmering sounds emanate from the piano and the singer sings a simple melody. The image of a glinting silver ring is easy to call to mind. Chaminade avoids low notes until the singer considers that they want the ring to shine on, even after they have died.

Cecile Chaminade was a pianist who wrote lovely character pieces for piano and for voice at the turn of the Century; clubs devoted to her music sprang up in Europe and America, and she was a regular contributor to popular womens’ magazines, where her music was included along with articles on “How to play my music.” Her works usually have a lovely, catchy main melody, a contrasting middle section, and finally a return to the main melody.

This song is familiar to singers and teachers from its inclusion in Joan Frey Boytim’s First Book of Mezzo-Soprano Solos, but her lovely works in several volumes are definitely worth investigation. The first volume is available online (see above), and additional volumes can be found in libraries and in reprints.

I have submitted a translation to recmusic.org, but until it is posted, I’ve included it here Read the rest of this entry »





Francesco Paolo Tosti: Ideale (The Ideal)

26 03 2009
Come back, dear ideal one, to smile on me again for a moment

"Come back, dear ideal, to smile on me again"

Francesco Paolo Tosti was something of an in-between composer. His works lived between the world of the classical and the popular, causing critics to judge his works harshly, precisely because of his songs’ popular appeal. Today, that distinction has faded, and all one hears is Tosti’s ability to write glorious melodies and set texts beautifully.

This piece is one of the tenor “national anthems” with so many recordings that it is difficult to make a selection. I hesitate to include one particular recording as the model, but feel it is worth noting; Alessandro Moreschi is the only male castrato soprano to have made recordings, and if you’ve never heard him– well, judge for yourself.





H.T. Burleigh: Deep River

25 03 2009

Red River Flooding #1, by Cobber99 (CC)

The Red River flooding is on my mind today. I recently sang with Fargo-Moorhead opera. I have friends in Fargo. My parents are from Bismarck/Mandan, where the Missouri is flooding, too.

I woke up with this song in my head this morning and found it comforting. “Oh, don’t you want to go…?” Yes, I do. But I must stay home and work on finishing my doctoral thesis. My thoughts and prayers go out in support of those living and helping in these communities.

Deep river, my home is over Jordan.
Deep river, Lord, I want to cross over into camp ground.
Oh, don’t you want to go to that gospel feast?
That promised land, where all is peace?





Johannes Brahms: Liebesklage des Maedchens (The maiden’s love lament)

24 03 2009
So hat mich Liebe verwundt

"So hat mich Liebe verwund't"

Brahms’s songs sound simple. The mark of a master, though, is to make the difficult seem effortless, and Brahms, Norman, and Barenboim accomplish that in this lover’s lament.

I initially was seeking Brahms’s Ophelia-Lieder, but could not locate a score online. The five songs last less than four minutes, and have also been recorded by Jessye Norman. They are lovely, but almost too simple — after all, they were intended to be sung unaccompanied and have a folk character.