Gabriel Fauré: En prière (In Prayer)

5 04 2009

Do not abandon me, give me the necessary gentleness to ease suffering

"Do not abandon me. Give me the needed gentleness to ease suffering"

On this Passion Sunday, Mark’s Gospel shows Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane while the disciples wait, or rather, sleep. Though the text of this prayer is Bourdèse’s, the image of Jesus desiring Calvary in order to ease suffering seems so organic and so appropriate for today.

Advertisements




Roger Quilter: Now sleeps the crimson petal

30 03 2009

aa

"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.





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.





Jean Sibelius: Flickan kom från sin älsklings möte (The Tryst, “The girl came from meeting her lover”)

21 03 2009

aa

"What has made your cheeks so pale?"

So often, songs are about young love and the loss of innocence. Sibelius’ takes the story of a girl who comes home with telltale signs of her adventures — red fingers and red lips — which Sibelius depicts both heroically and nervously in music. But when she comes home pale and her mother asks why, the music turns dramatic and the girl announces her grave should read that it was her lover’s infidelity that made her pale.

This is a perfect opportuntiy to address the problem of singing works in translation. Though the English version in the score (which, unfortunately, lacks the Swedish) is fairly close to the Swedish, the French singing translation keeps calling the girl “Gretchen,” a clear reference to Goethe’s Faust. There is nothing in the poet’s words to suggest this; Gretchen was certainly not the only girl to be betrayed by a lover!





Edvard Grieg: En svane (A swan)

14 03 2009

Du sang i døden

"Du sang i døden"

The mute swan, it is said, sings only before it is about to die. Grieg crafts a song that captures the swans grace and beauty in life, and the drama of its swan-song.





Nikolai Karlovich Medtner: Chto ty klonish’ nad vodami / Что ты клонишь над водами (Willow, why forever bending?)

11 03 2009
Every leaf languishes, trembling above the water

"With quivering leaves like greedy lips... every leaf languishes, trembling above the water"

This song is sensuality in text and music — Medtner captures both the willow’s yearning and the flowing water that will never be caught.

Hearing Russian vocal music is rare enough in America, usually limited to Rachmaninoff and Tschaikovsky. Medtner’s works are every bit as virtuosic and rewarding for both performers and listeners, and merit closer study. His works are available on IMSLP, and I encourage singers and pianists alike to dig in!