Programme Notes: Vocal Solos and Song Cycles

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Vocal Solo with piano accompaniment

Vocal Solo with instrumental accompaniment

Vocal solo with piano accompaniment

SONGS OF LOVE Opus 91 (2006)

Duration 18 minutes

The four songs of this cycle are settings of poetry by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Anne Bradstreet, Emily Dickinson and Eliza Acton

How do I love thee? is a love sonnet written by Elizabeth Barrett to Robert Browning, in which she explores all the ways she loves her husband. The music is full of excitement and breathlessness.

To my dear and loving husband is again sung by a wife.  In the poem, the 17th century Puritan poet, Anne Bradstreet, reveals that she is at one with her husband. The Puritans believed that since marriage is ordained by God, then it is a gift from God.  The reflective nature of the song has echoes of Lutheran church music, portraying the devotion of the wife towards her husband

One Blessing had I is a setting of the poem by the 19thcentury writer Emily Dickinson, who never married and lived as a recluse, writing poetry thoughout every night.  It is thought that her verse is addressed to an unattainable figure, perhaps her muse. The music echoes the passion and striving in the poem.

I Love Thee  The early 19th century English poet, Eliza Acton, mainly wrote poetry of unrequited love.  In this poem she likens her feelings to images of Nature.  The soprano is asked to sing very high to express her longing.  The piano accompaniment has stark passages reflecting the unreturned love, but also waxes lyrical when comparing the poet’s feelings with nature

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Vocal Solo with instrumental accompaniment

DREAM-LAND Opus 42 (1988) 

Duration 20 minutes

This setting of the poem by Edgar Allen Poe was originally composed for soprano voice, soprano saxophone and piano. The soprano saxophone part has been substituted on numerous occasions by clarinet in Bb or violin.

Dream-Land is a very atmospheric work, in which the voice, the saxophone (clarinet or violin) and the piano each add their own dimensions to the moods expressed by the poem on its journey through a night of dreams.
The piano part is characterised by dreamy ostinato passages, percussive and urgent sections or by warm comforting chords.  The soprano is the traveller through the dream, who experiences stark, nightmarish moments, ghosts from the past, nature at its most haunting and glimpses of heaven.  The saxophone (clarinet or violin) further expresses the feelings conveyed by the words, harking back to experiences just gone by, translating the emotions into pure musical form and then leading to the next mood.
The first and last verses have virtually the same words.  At the beginning the setting is abstract and conveys fear of the unknown.  The ending brings comfort and the understanding which the mind experiences when rationalising the turmoil of the night.

‘The most striking examples of otherworldliness were in Andrew Downes’ Dream-Land (US premier), sung by Deborah Saverance with Paul Cohen on saxophone and David Maiullo on piano, and Leonard Bernstein’s Israfel… These two pieces, in their emotionally astute and beautifully sung arrangements, took Poe’s words far into the realm of the spirit.’                                                                                                                                                                         PLYMOUTH STATE UNIVERSITY JOURNAL, FALL 2003 (Volume IV, no 2)
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