Hesperus is Phosphorus

Hesperus is Phosphorus

A question of universal perspective
Lewis Spratlan
The Crossing
Network for New Music
Catalog Number: 
new classical

Amherst, MA

Release Date: 
May 26, 2015
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
One Sheet: 

Appearances can be deceiving. To the ancient Greeks, the morning and evening skies were home to two stars, Phosphorus at the beginning of the day and Hesperus at twilight. But the Babylonians knew what it took the Greeks centuries to discover: The morning and evening stars were one and the same -- the planet Venus, viewed through two different lenses, from two different perspectives.

Building a libretto from texts ranging from Adrienne Rich and Richard Feynman to the Magnificat, Lewis Spratlan offers a re-examination of our settled views and the discovery entailed in rethinking them from a wider perspective in Vespers Cantata: Hesperus Is Phosphorus. This hour-long, nine-movement work for mixed chorus and chamber ensemble is here performed by Philadelphia’s The Crossing (conducted by Donald Nally) and Network for New Music.

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s David Patrick Stearns called Hesperus Is Phosphorus “a compositional tour de force, absorbing at every turn and, indeed, the sort of work that could only come from a senior composer with great craftsmanship and complete creative fearlessness.”

“We live in a world in which perception changes quickly as our knowledge base grows exponentially,” write Spratlan and Nally in the liner notes. “It is easy to be confused or lost, drowning in an ever-growing sea of seeming paradoxes.” Without forcing reconciliation, the composer and performers here guide the listener through these paradoxes, arriving at the conclusion richer for the journey.

Lewis Spratlan, a professor at Amherst College for over 30 years, is a recipient of Guggenheim, NEA and Rockefeller fellowships and received the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 2000 for his opera Life Is A Dream.



"Mr. Spratlan’s pungently modern language comes through continually in this intricate 65-minute score. Still, he sets words for clarity, often in long stretches of spiky block chords. A beautiful recording of a sensual and mysterious work." [FULL ARTICLE]
Anthony Tommasini

“[A]n intriguing and dynamic work. … Hesperus is Phosphorus is a solidly conceived work, and it’s myriad parts are structured into an emotional and coherent whole. … The recording is also excellent. Voices emerge in a well integrated space, and the instruments are also well placed in the stereo spread. … Hesperus is Phosphorus is a challenging, but ultimately rewarding work of contemporary music … a bold composition and performance.” [FULL ARTICLE]
Mel Martin

"Spratlan ... comfortably blend[s] Webernian dissonance with jazz, winning melodies with smart organization. There are gentle polystylistic touches: A mention of Mahler in the text permits an elegant, fleeting reference easy to overlook. ... Once explicated, the puzzling title encapsulates the topic: The Greeks thought the morning star Phosphorus was different from the evening star, Hesperus, until they realized they were one and the same. This engrossing 68-minute cantata ruminates across such realizations about life and afterlife." [FULL ARTICLE]
Grant Chu Covell