David Lang: love fail

David Lang: love fail

More Bay Ridge than Bayreuth
David Lang
Quince Ensemble
Amanda DeBoer
Kayleigh Butcher
Liz Pearse
Carrie Henneman Shaw
Catalog Number: 
#1 056

St. Paul, MN

Release Date: 
Apr 24, 2020
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
One Sheet: 

Why is it that people still like the story of Tristan und Isolde? “The greatest love story ever!” But why? Of course, there is excitement, drama, love, lust, shame, death, dragons. I think the real reason why is because the love of Tristan und Isolde begins by accident - they drink a love potion. It is almost a laboratory experiment into what love might be like without any of the complications of how real love begins or works - without the excitement, embarrassment, frustration, guilt, or competition present in the courtships of ordinary people.

So writes David Lang on why he wove together love fail (2012), into a tapestry of many versions of the 800-year old story. His libretto (with some help from Google Translate) draws from sources such as Lydia Davis, Marie de France, Gottfried von Strassburg, Béroul, Thomas of Britain and Richard Wagner. 

“I compiled the oddest incidents from these versions of their romance, took out all the names or technological information that would make the texts seem ancient, and put them next to stories by the contemporary author Lydia Davis. These stories are oddly similar to the Tristan stories - they are also about love, honor, and respect between two people, but they are much more recognizable to us.”

The resulting 15 movements over 50 minutes for four female voices and sporadic instruments feel more like an elegant contemplation of the timeless subject than an over-the-top Romantic bombast; more Bay Ridge than Bayreuth. Perfect, in fact, for the debonair, post-austere voices of Quince Ensemble. Comprised of vocalists Amanda DeBoer Bartlett (soprano), Kayleigh Butcher (mezzo soprano), Liz Pearse (soprano), and Carrie Henneman Shaw (soprano), Quince thrives on unique musical challenges and genre-bending contemporary repertoire.

Pulitzer Prize winning composer, David Lang is a Professor of Music Composition at the Yale School of Music and Artist in Residence at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He is co-founder and co-artistic director of New York’s legendary music collective Bang on a Can.



"beautiful, beguiling" [FULL ARTICLE] - Steve Smith


"The subject matter of interconnectedness, communication, compassion, faith and love are mirrored in Quince’s experience of bringing love fail to life. Quince Ensemble's 'love fail' transcends romantic love" [FULL ARTICLE] - Anna Heflin


"The variety of vocal environs and additions of instruments here and there keep the music, and story, dynamic and very interesting." [FULL ARTICLE]


"With four voices in play, distinctions between the vocal parts are rendered clearly and allow the listener ample opportunity to savour the ensemble's vocal interplay." [FULL ARTICLE]


“Quince Ensemble’s performance adds minimalist instrumentation and is equally profound, bringing wonderful shape and motion to the simpler pieces and musical clarity to the most dense. 

Together these five recordings offer a rare and uplifting musical repast in this time of great consternation and stress.” [FULL ARTICLE]