20th Century Consort:
Sparrows Joseph Schwantner (1979) [17:50]
Lucy Shelton, soprano
Christopher Kendall, conductor
Sara Stern, flute, Loren Kitt, clarinet, Dotian Levalier, harp
F. Anthony Ames, percussion, Lambert Orkis, piano
Dan Rouslin, violin, Barbara Westphal, viola, David Budd, cello
Candles Gerald Chenoweth (1976) [17:26]
Lucy Shelton, soprano
Christopher Kendall, conductor
Loren Kitt, clarinet, Dan Rouslin, violin, Barbara Westphal, viola,
Glenn Garlick, cello, Dotian Levalier, harp, F. Anthony Ames, percussion
A Poison Tree Richard Wernick (1979) [11:49]
Lucy Shelton, soprano
Christopher Kendall, conductor
Sara Stern, flute, Loren Kitt, clarinet, Philip Setzer, violin,
David Finckel, cello, Lambert Orkis, piano
Spring Songs William Doppmann (1981) [20:12]
Lucy Shelton, soprano, autoharp
Loren Kitt, clarinet, Tom Jones, percussion, Lambert Orkis, piano
Recorded August 23, 1982 at Coolidge Auditorium, Library of Congress
I. Sarabande [3:51]
(Interlude I) [0:34]
II. In His Own Write [2:18]
III. Music for the Hunt [2:05]
IV. Love-child [3:27]
(Interlude II) [0:30]
V. Song [4:18]
The 2Oth Century Consort, founded in 1975,
was established as the resident ensemble for contemporary music at the Smithsonian Institution's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in 1978. In its annual concert series, the Consort presents dynamic programs of new music frequently related to the museum's exhibitions. Its programming seeks a balance of musical experience ranging from Stravinsky and Bartok to world premieres of both leading and emerging American composers.
Under the direction of its founder and conductor, Christopher Kendall, the Consort's artists include principal players from the National Symphony Orchestra, along with other prominent chamber musicians from Washington and beyond. Associate Conductor of the Seattle Symphony from 1987 to 1992, Mr. Kendall is Director of the School of Music at the University of Maryland and founder and lutenist of the Folger Consort .
20th Century Consort Concerts have been broadcast nationally, and the ensemble has recorded widely for the Innova, Delos, Nonesuch, ASV, Centaur, Arabesque, CRI and Smithsonian Collection labels. The ensemble has toured nationally, and has presented special programs at Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Dumbarton Oaks, the Washington National Cathedral, Spoleto USA and many other distinguished venues.
Soprano Lucy shelton
is an internationally recognized exponent of 20th and 21st century repertory. She has premiered over 100 works many of which were composed for her by leading composers such as Stephen Albert, Elliott Carter, Mario Davidovsky, David Del Tredici, Alexander Goehr, Gerard Grisey, Oliver Knussen, Ned Rorem, Joseph Schwantner and Augusta Reed Thomas. Her concertizing has taken her to major cities across the globe (from Australia to Japan, Brazil to the United Kingdom and throughout the United States) for performances of orchestral, chamber and solo repertoire. She has recorded extensively for such labels as Deutsche Grammophon, Bridge Records, NMC and Naxos. Lucy Shelton is a two-time winner of the Walter W. Naumburg award, as a chamber musician and as a solo singer. Her collaboration with the 20th Century Consort began in 1978.
for soprano and six instruments
Gerald Chenoweth (born 1943) is a native
of Baltimore; he studied at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst with Philip Bezanson and the University of Iowa with Richard Hervig. Since 1975, he has been on the
faculty of Rutgers University, where, in addition to teaching and composing, he directs the Rutgers Chamber Ensemble.
Candles sets passages in English translation from the contemporary Greek poet C.P. Cavafy, but not simply as a straightforward vocal setting. The virtuosic employment of
the instruments and of silence–as a way of capturing the poet’s emptiness–generates
the delicate, even attenuated, expression. And in this world of quiet, the occasional outbursts are all the stronger and more terrifying.
The poem Candles is in four short stanzas. Chenoweth has not set the entire text vocally, but he has written instrumental music that is influenced by lines that are not sung (these are printed in italics below). He has also interpolated two other Cavafy poems, which are sung complete and which provide a wide range of cross-references between the images of the various poems. Occasionally the instrumentalists whisper Greek words, adding to the mysterious, sustained, delicate mood of the piece.
[The lines printed in italics are not actually sung, but reflect themselves in the character of the music.]
Days to come stand before us
like a row of burning candles–
golden, warm and vivid candles.
To Call Up the Shades:
One candle is enough. Its gentle light
will be more suitable, will be more gracious
when the Shadows come, the Shadows of Love,
One candle is enough. Tonight the room
must not have too much light. In deep reverie,
all suggestion, and with the gentle light–
in this deep reverie I’ll form visions
to call up the Shadows, the Shadows of Love.
The days gone by remain behind us,
a mournful line of burnt out candles;
the nearest are still smoking
cold, melted, and bent.
Like the beautiful bodies of those who died before growing old,
sadly shut away in a sumptuous mausoleum, roses by the head, jasmine at the feet–
So appear the longings that have passed
without being satisfied, not one of them granted
a night of sensual pleasure, or one of its radiant mornings.
I don’t want to look at them, their form saddens me,
and it saddens me to remember their original light.
I look ahead at my burning candles.
In a small, empty room, only the four walls
covered with a green cloth,
a beautiful chandelier burns, all fire;
and each of its flames kindles
a sensual fever, a lascivious urge.
In the small room, radiantly lit
by the chandelier’s hot fire,
no ordinary light breaks out.
Not for timid bodies
the lust of this heat.
I don’t want to turn back, don’t want to see, terrified,
how quickly that dark line lengthens,
how quickly one more dead candle joins another.
From C.P. Cavafy: Collected Poems, translation
©1975 by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard,
reprinted by permission of Princeton University Press
(replacement of some words with others of similar meaning)
Spring Songs (1981)
for mezzo-soprano, piano, clarinet, and percussion
William Doppmann (b. Springfield, MA, 1933) has been active as both pianist and composer, having pursued that dual career since early childhood.
He began piano studies at the age of five, and when he was seven he conducted the Louisville Symphony Orchestra in his own composition; three years afterthat he appeared as a soloist with the Cincinnati Symphony. He pursued his formal academic and musical studies at the Cincinnati Conservatory (with Carl Hugo Grimm) and later at the University of Michigan with Homer Keller and Ross Lee Finney.
As a sophomore at Michigan he won the Naumburg Award and the Michaels Memorial Award (Chicago) as a pianist; the following year he was a silver medalist in the Leventritt Competition. After military service in the late '50s, he began teaching at the Universities of Iowa and Texas.
He won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1987-88.
He has served on the faculty of the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and remains busy as a concert pianist. He currently lives in New Mexico.
Doppmann considers Ross Lee Finney to be his major influence, not only as a teacher during his formal study at Michigan, but for years afterwards as a colleague, discussing Doppmann's new pieces with him. Spring Songs was written for Lucy Shelton and premiered at Chamber Music Northwest in 1981. Its East Coast premiere was given the same season by Lucy Shelton and the 20th Century Consort. The composer's own comments follow:
The cycle Spring Songs, written in 1981 and premiered in Portland the following summer, suggests through the symbolism of succeeding seasons the passage and renewal of the life cycle seen from a woman's point of view. The singer begins her journey with Chaucer's Lenten pilgrims to Canterbury; meditates under a tree on the "almost seen" in John Lennon's whimsical poem; presides as an imperial Diana over a savage and relentless hunt suggested by the words of Robert Burns; suffers imagined fear for her young son in Willa Doppmann's Love-Child; and, having grown distracted and wearied by age, ends her pilgrimage in the fairy-tale atmosphere of a wintry town at close of day (Donald Justice's Song). Interspersed with these settings are Interludes, and an entr'acte separates Part One from Part Two. The singer and three players all play other instruments in addition to their principal ones in an effort to extend the colors of the ensemble. As with the text sources, the music employs mixed styles and freely associates material from song to song in an intuitive rather than a preplanned logical manner. Maximum use is made of the dramatic possibilities inherent in violent contrast.
This cycle is dedicated to the memory of John Lennon. –William Doppmann
When that Aprille with his shoures sote
The drogte of Marche hath perced to the rote
And bathed ev’ry veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendered is the flour
When Zephirus eek with his swete breath
Inspired hath in ev’ry holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne
And smale fowles maken melodye,
That slepen al the night with open ye
(So pricketh hem Nature in her corages):
Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages
And palmers for to seken straunge strondes
To ferne halwes couthe in sondry lond’s,,
And specially from ev’ry river’s ende
Of Engelond from Caunterbury they wende
The holy blissful martir for to seke… forseke
II. In His Own Write
I sat be-lonely down a tree,
humbled fat and small.
A little lady sing to me
I could not see at all.
I’m looking up and at the sky
to see such wondrous voice.
Puzzly puzzle, wonder why,
I hear but have no choice.
"Speak up, come forth, you ravel me,"
I potty menthol shout.
"I know you hiddy by this tree,"
But still she won’t come out.
Such softly singing lulled me sleep
An hour or two or so
I wakeny slow and took a peep
and still no lady show.
Then suddy on a little twig
I thought I see a sight,
A tiny little tiny pig,
that sing with all its might.
"I thought you were a lady,"
I giggle – well I may,
To my surprise the lady
Got up – and flew away.
III. Music for the Hunt
Sleep’st thou, or wauk’st thou, fairest creature?
Rosy Morn now lifts his eye,
Numbering ilka bud, which Nature
Waters wi’the tears ‘o-Joy.
Now to the streaming fountain
Or up the heathy mountain
The hart, hind and roe, freely, wildly-wanton stray.
In twining hazel bowers
His lay the linnet pours,
The laverock to the sky
Ascends with sangs o’Joy
Whilst the sun and thou arise to bless this day.
I was pumped out like water;
All my bones feel disjointed;
My heart, like wax, melted…
And Thou layest me in the dust–
–from Psalm XXII
What if the child did die?
When tummy hurts grew too big for heart to handle–
What tossle-headed honey could fill his yellow bed as snuggly as he?
And what would become of poor fuzzy bear, awake in his cold corner?
(What if his master grew too big and stole away?
What tassle-headed honey could fill his yellow bed?
And what would become of poor fuzzy bear, awake in his cold corner?)
(What if no golden cherished king could fit his humble crib as grandly as he did?
And what would become of grizzly bear
Awake and starving and stricken in his cold,
Love not given has nowhere to go
Yet fate was kind:
There is yet today–
The son is only sleeping.
–from Ophelia’s song,
"How should I your true love know,"
Like a rose,
And the snow on the roof
Ah, how the street
Toward the light did leap!
And the lamps went out.
Brightness fell down from the steeple clock
To the row of shops
And rippled the bricks
Like the scales of a fish
And all that day
Was a fairy tale
Told once in a while
To a good child.
A Poison Tree (1979)
for soprano and five instruments
Richard Wernick was born in Boston on January 19, 1934, and studied at Brandeis with Irving Fine, Harold Shapero, and Arthur Berger. He also worked with Ernst Toch, Boris Blacher, and Aaron Copland during two summers (1954 and 1955) at Tanglewood, and later with Leon Kirchner at Mills College. He joined the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania in 1968. He has directed the Penn Contemporary Players and has served signally as consultant on contemporary music programming to the Philadelphia Orchestra. His Visions of Wonder and Terror won the 1977 Pulitzer Prize. Much of his music is dramatic in character, even when created for the concert stage rather than the theater. His vocal music, in particular, allows the accompanying instruments to comment on and enlarge the emotional scope of a text that is already emotionally fraught.
A Poison Tree sets a poem from William Blake's Songs of Experience in a single extended movement, much of it purely instrumental. The opening section is an instrumental fantasy of violent gestures with nine variations on the basic thematic material. Cello and violin play a leading role in the work, and take off on a double cadenza before the voice enters.
The actual setting of Blake's words occurs in the middle section, an ironic valse macabre that both illustrates and comments on the poem. The final section takes up the opening material again but repeats as well the final two lines of the text, to achieve a kind of resolution.
A Poison Tree
I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
And I watered it in fears
Night and morning with my tears,
And I sunned it with smiles
And with soft, deceitful wiles.
And it grew both day and night
Till it bore an apple bright,
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.
And into my garden stole
When the night had veiled the pole:
In the morning, glad, I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.
–William Blake (from Songs of Experience)
for soprano and eight instruments
Joseph Schwantner (b. 1943, Chicago) was exposed to music in grade school, where he played in the band and studied classical guitar, the instrument to which he devoted his earliest efforts as a composer. He first intended to compose jazz, and after attending the National Stage Band Camp after his senior year in high school, he enrolled in the Chicago Conservatory College, where he majored in composition, studying with Bernard Dieter. A radio broadcast of the Warsaw Autumn Festival, one of the world's premiere new-music festivals, proved seminal. "I never imagined music could sound like that, and I lay awake all night thinking about it." Jazz began to recede in his interests, as he immersed himself in a whole new body of music. In 1964 he entered Northwestern University as a graduate student in composition; his principal teachers there were Alan Stout and Anthony Donato. From that point he began to make his mark with remarkable speed, winning three BMI Student Composer awards before graduation.
By the early 1970s the composer had consolidated his technique–based on the rationality of serial devices that were very much part of the academic training of the day–and was pursuing new devices of color, texture, and timbre. These are perhaps most obvious in his works for larger ensembles, but in any combination his highly coloristic imagination is apparent. It was certainly apparent to audiences that heard his first mature orchestral work, Aftertones of Infinity, which won the 1979 Pulitzer Prize for Music.
A prize like the Pulitzer, when it comes at a fairly early stage in a composer's career, almost always gives a terrific boost by highlighting an individual out of the crowd of new, young composers and marking the young composer as a likely candidate for commissions. Certainly Schwantner has not lacked opportunities to compose for specific performers. Soon after the Pulitzer announcement, he completed Sparrows for Lucy Shelton and the 20th Century Consort, which premiered the work and recorded it.
Sparrows is an opulent setting of haiku texts by Issa (in English translation); the work represents a return to the tonal and neo-romantic character of much of Schwantner’s recent music. Moreover the piece demonstrated a real familiarity with the vocal quality and technical abilities of the singer for whom it was composed, something that has not always been the case with contemporary composers for the voice, though it used to be a very much prized element of the composer's craft from Handel and Mozart to Rossini and Bellini. Indeed, so well did the composer understand the voice of his original singer that the undersigned, upon hearing a later performance with a different singer (and not knowing of the commission), said to the composer, "You know who would be perfect for Sparrows? Lucy Shelton." To which Schwantner replied, "I wrote it for Lucy." Few composers since the bel canto era have had such sensitivity to the voice
of a particular singer that its character shines forth even in a performance
The fifteen haiku settings are separate, short movements, often making brief references to older musical styles or genres. They cover a remarkably wide expressive range, but mostly in a mode of rich lyricism and in what Schwantner referred to as "dream states." These are at times austere or exuberant, but move to an ending of gentle hopefulness.
– S. Ledbetter
1. Come then, come hither;
Play your games and bide with me,
2. The plum tree blossoms;
The nightingale sings;
But I am alone.
3. The autumn wind!
Even the mountain’s shadow
Trembles before it.
4. Through this world of ours
The butterfly’s existence–
Such a hastening!
5. Wild Geese, hush your cry!
Wherever you go it is the same–
The floating world!
6. A note from the bell–
A cry from the waterfowl–
And the night darkens!
7. Heedless that the tolling bell
Marks our own closing day–
We take this evening cool.
8. The night is dim.
But over the falls that ran with wine
Stands the moon.
9. What loveliness!
Seen through a crack in the wall
The River of Heaven!
10. By night sacred music
And into the flare of the torches
Float crimson leaves!
11. Radiant moon!
Tonight, must you too
12. And, when I die,
Be thou guardian of my tomb,
13. Cry not, insects,
For that is a way
We all must go–
14. A glimpse of the Moon–
A note from the Nightingale–
And the night’s over!
15. Greet the new sky
With consonance of harmonies–
Right to the Sparrows!
[From The Autumn Wind,
translation ©1957 by Lewish MacKenzie, published by John Murray (Publishers) Ltd., London.
Session Producer for original 1980s sessions, Bill Bennett
Originally recorded and digitally remastered by Curt Wittig
Program notes by Steven Ledbetter
Cover artwork and graphic design by Jeanne Krohn