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LIEDERPALOOZA SPOTLIGHT: Pieces of Program Notes Past

September 4, 2014

This weekend, VOX 3 Collective presents an extended “open house” afternoon of art song to benefit The Lied, Art Song, and Choral Texts Archive, an online repository of classical song texts and translations.

Please join us for Liederpalooza on Saturday, September 6 at PianoForte Chicago! Tickets are free; seats may be reserved here.

As part of this event, members dug deep into their archive of program notes, sharing some details about the art song they will be performing.  Here are a few reflections on select pieces.

Love Sublime

“This song comes from an album entitled A Love Sublime commissioned by Carnegie Hall in 2005 for Soprano Renée Fleming. The song ‘Love Sublime’ emanated from an earlier work entitled ‘Paris’ on Brad Mehldau’s album Places, and his wife, Fleurine, later wrote the lyrics. Mehldau, better known as a contemporary jazz pianist, uses very dense piano in these songs, and concentrates the settings in the lower register of the piano to exploit the range between the piano and soprano voice. He found the rhythm of the vocal phrases by speaking them: ‘I talked out all the poems before and during the composition, speaking them myself, applying the rhythms of natural speech to the vocal line.'”

IAN HOSACK, baritone
Sju Dikter, Ensamhetens Tankar

 “Sju Dikter, Ensamhetens Tankar came to me in the most modern of ways. I was surfing through the endless supply of music on Spotify and stumbled upon the Peter Mattei recording of Wilhelm Stenhammar (1871 – 1927) songs. It was the first time I had heard sung Swedish, the first time I had heard Peter Mattei and my reaction was incredibly base; I had to have this music. My first response was to the musical line, the inflection, and the texture of the pieces so I had no real context to what was being said. However, the music is set so expertly, the meaning within the words shine through so well. Stenhammar is considered by some to be Sweden’s most significant composer, and is possibly the most often performed Swedish composer outside of Sweden. His song repertoire rings a feeling that I get from Johannes Brahms and Richard Strauss, where lush harmonics are used in very clean manner giving his music a flow through phrasing.”

MEGAN COOK, soprano
Пленившись розой, соловей

Nikolay Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov began tinkering with a piano at five years old, imitating his father’s limited playing ability. Though his first compositions took shape at the age of ten, he found music boring and instead preferred reading. Through literature he gained a love of the sea and following family tradition, joined the Russian Imperial Navy at the age of twelve.  After moving to St. Petersburg, Rimsky-Korsakov started to study piano with greater discipline. At the age of 18, he was introduced to a group of composers we now identify as the Russian Five. Though his musical training was elementary, he had intuition, natural talent, and could intellectually converse with his new-found colleagues. He learned from colleagues and habitual score study, and gained a greater understanding of composition. He eventually composed numerous works for the stage and concert hall. Along with the rest of the Russian Five, his compositions are now considered prime examples of Russian Nationalistic music.”

La regata veneziana

La Regata Veneziana is a song cycle in the Venetian dialect by Gioachino Rossini. The cycle centers around Anzoleta, whose boyfriend Momolo is competing in a Venice regatta (gondola race). The first song translates “Anzoleta before the regatta” and the song shows the moments before the race- encouraging Momolo to win the race and reminding him she will be watching.  “Anzoleta during the regatta,” anxiously watches the race and and culminates in the moment Momolo wins the race. The last song, which will be performed on our program of art songs on Saturday, depicts Anzoleta after the race. Momolo is offered kisses as his prize. He is the winner and that all of Venice is proclaiming it so! The vocal line alternates between a seductive melody with a light waltz accompaniment, to a declamatory style as Anzoleta announces the winner. Rossini intended La Regata Veneziana as entertainment for his guests on musical evenings.”

CATIE HUGGINS, mezzo-soprano
Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen

“I was first drawn to Gustav Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen during the second year of my bachelor’s degree study. I had just officially ‘come out’ as a mezzo soprano and I was on the hunt for a song cycle to perform on my junior recital. Ambitious, n’est-ce pas? I was drawn to the drama of the piece, the depictive and animate accompaniment (even in piano reduction form!), and the full blown German Romantic ethos. I struggled mightily for about six months before I let it go, fully intending to come back to it when I was a more mature singer. So here we are! On my graduate recital, I return to this much beloved and iconic cycle for middle voice. The point of the view of the piece is certainly male, and as a result, the piece has long been the province of baritone singers. However, a quick search of available recordings reveals English mezzo-soprano Janet Baker to be a favorite interpreter of many listeners.”

The Field Marshal

 “The Field Marshal” is the last of four songs in Modest Mussorgsky‘s cycle, Songs and Dances of Death. Written in 1877, two years after the first three and four years before Mussorgsky’s death, this song depicts Death as a commander who arrives after a battle to, harshly, count and collect her deceased troops. In the shadow of the deaths of both his mother and good friend, accompanied by his severe alcoholism and solitude, Mussorgsky provided some of the most original and dramatic music written in the 19th century.”

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