Vincent d’Indy: Lied maritime (Maritime song)

27 01 2010

"ghosts" by Naama, used under Creative Commons

It’s the beginning of a new semester, which means I’ve been busy assigning repertoire to my students. I have come across this piece in several anthologies and online, and I have been tempted to assign it, but for lack of familiarity, I’ve avoided it. Additionally, I am so fond of Vincent d’Indy’s orchestral music that I didn’t believe a song this simple could stand up to those works I so enjoyed programming when I worked in classical radio. I was wrong to have doubted d’Indy, as this song is lovely!

The song is in two halves. The first half is calm and rocking, just like the calm sea; the lover looks at the closed eyes of the beloved and feels calm, like the sea. The second half is much more frantic, with rising and falling arpeggios in the piano, and with unexpected pitches and chords in both the voice and piano. The stormy seas are echoed in the troubled heart after looking at the “traitorous eyes” of the beloved.

Any time I get to feature Counter-tenor extraordinaire Philippe Jaroussky, I’m happy. This performance lacks some of the warmth and vocal agility that I tend to associate with him, but it’s still quite striking.

No translation on recmusic.org (though one is provided in the front of the commonly available “40 French Songs, Vol. II” by International). No videos on YouTube. I think this needs to be remedied, tout de suite!

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Franz Schubert and Carl Loewe: Erlkönig (The Erl King)

5 05 2009
Who rides so late through night and wind...

"Who rides so late through night and wind..."

One of the most iconic of German Lieder is Schubert’s setting of Goethe’s Erlkönig. It is a story of a sick child whose father carries him home by horseback. The child is terrified by the “Erl King,” who threatens to take him by will or by force. The father doesn’t believe the child, thinking the child is hallucinating.

Unfortunately, this song is far too demanding for many pianists with its rapidly repeated triplets in the right hand, and it requires a singer with some serious dramatic chops to do it justice. Carl Loewe’s setting of the same text is also extremely effective and a masterpiece in its own right. Additionally, it is a great alternative to the Schubert.





Ernest Chausson: Le Colibri (The Hummingbird)

6 03 2009
Le vert colibri, le roi des collines

Le vert colibri, le roi des collines

Chausson perfectly captures a dreamy and sensuous garden in which a hummingbird floats in midair.  He creates a delicate line, notes that simply float away, and arpeggios that seem to perfectly capture a hummingbird’s movement.  The poem’s sense of longing for love are also not lost.

I was impressed with the videos of two young singers Emily Peragine and Laura Intravia. As a friend recently wrote, “If you’re going to put it on YouTube, it better be good.” Well, these two young women most certainly are, and I have no qualms including them as models of this sublime mélodie.