Edvard Grieg: Med en primulaveris (With a Mayflower)

15 05 2010

by steve_chilton (CC)

When I was in San Diego earlier this spring, my dear friend Dr. Marla Fogderud taught for me while I was gone. She’s a specialist in Norwegian repertoire, and when I returned, I was pleased that a handful of students were working on Grieg songs (in Norwegian!) Grieg’s songs are carefully constructed miniatures, always well-balanced, nuanced, and colorful. I, for one, relished the opportunity to become more familiar with some of these gems.

I must confess, I had no idea that primulaveris was a flower until looking it up just now. Otherwise known as cowslip or mayflower,  it’s one of the first flowers of spring in most of Europe. This song cautions against rushing through spring to summer — a message I can definitely take to heart. The song has a simple, repetitive quality to it, but a broad, arching line which allows the listener to revel in the beauty of spring.

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Jules Massenet: Crépuscule (Twilight)

7 05 2010

Dreams in the Dusk, (cc) afsilva

I’m still here, just digging out from the end of my first year at Concordia. Last week was jury week, and I heard so many pieces of music that I want to write about! Posting will be spotty this month, though, as I will be driving to Logan, Utah in a couple of weeks for my summer with the Utah Festival Opera. Hopefully over the summer, I’ll be able to get a cache of posts created so there won’t be this long silence again. As I’ve told my students, feel free to nag me if I’m not posting enough!

I taught several pieces by Jules Massenet this semester (“Je suis encore” from Manon, Bonne nuit, Élégie, and Ouvres tes yeux bleus) and was seduced by the beauty of his songs. Through the simplicity of the accompaniment and the sweep of the melodic line, Massenet is able to perfectly capture the emotion of the text.  I’m surprised to find so few have recorded his songs — perhaps this will become a project for me and my students in the not so distant future.

Many of Massenet’s works are available at IMSLP, including this gem. The song is SO simple, really serving to emphasize the beauty of the dusk. The gentle turns in the vocal line sound like the world settling in for the night, much like the lilies, the ladybirds, and the lovers that the text mentions.





Hugo Wolf: Auf ein Christblume II (To a Christmas Rose)

22 12 2009

Christ rose

Hellebores (Christmas roses), by alphageek, used under Creative Commons

Hugo Wolf’s primary vehicle of musical expression was the art song, primarily because it allowed him great expressive freedom in a miniature form. He was never successful in the larger forms, such as symphonic works or opera, perhaps because he lacked the stamina to stay dedicated to them. He wrote in furious spurts of inspiration that lasted about a year, then wrote nothing for months or years. Today, I think Wolf would be classified as manic-depressive.

In my opinion, some of Wolf’s most evocative songs are the among the 53 settings of poems by Eduard Mörike. It’s easy to see why — the deep, reflective, quasi-spiritual nature of Mörike’s poetry must have appealed to Wolf’s troubled mind. Several of the songs (Auf ein altes Bild, Auf ein Christblume II, Schlafendes Jesuskind) are Christmas-themed; they are tender, but still have the chromaticism and pangs of raw emotion that are so typical of Wolf. Auf ein Christblume II takes up the theme of the flower sleeping beneath the snow, a familiar image at this time of year.

A shoutout to the folks at YourAccompanist.com — I am grateful to be featured on their site this month, largely in part due to this blog. They have several of Wolf’s song accompaniments available for purchase.





Rhené-Bâton: Sérénade Mélancolique

6 05 2009

With your body, with your arms, make a tomb

With your body, with your arms, make a tomb

My love for the International Musical Scores Library Project grows by the day! Today, I discovered scores by a conductor and composer from the early 20th Century named Rhené-Bâton. His music sounds like a hybrid of Debussy and Fauré – not a bad thing!

The fourth song of Rhené-Bâton’s Op. 16 has an unabashed romantic flair. Much of the text describes the beauty one finds in a lover. At the end, though, the text turns dramatically, and the singer asks the beloved to “make a tomb” with his or her body within which the singer can hide from pain, hence the “melancholy” of the title.

Text (Jean Lahor) and new translation behind cut: Read the rest of this entry »





Giuseppe Martucci: Cantava il ruscello (The little brook sang)

30 04 2009
O... la pace fedel de la foresta!

O... la pace fedel de la foresta!

For me, Martucci’s song cycle La Canzone dei Ricordi (The Song of Memories) was a wonderful discovery. These beautifully crafted songs call to mind the music of Puccini, and it surprises me that they are not performed more often. The second song, presented here, with its undulating harmonies in the accompaniment suggest not only rushing water the title might suggest, but also the spring breezes, and even the underlying emotional excitement that comes with the arrival of spring.

New translation behind cut:

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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.