Texts, Translations and Program Notes
Program Notes by Arthur Canter except as noted
Music for String Quartet and Soprano
Tricia Park, Robin Scott, Maurycy Banaszek, Andrew Janss, Tony Arnold
I. Naming the Unnameable
II. Innuendoes of Earth
III. Falling through Space
IV. Music of Two Spheres
Music and words are dedicated to Tony Arnold.
World Premier Commissioned by MusicIC
String Quartet No. 2 in F Sharp Minor, with Soprano, Op. 10 (1907-08)
II. Sehr rasch
III. Litanei: Langsam
IV. Entrückung: Sehr langsam
Variations on a Sonic Imagination, for Soprano and String Quartet, takes the same title as the series of five poetic texts by Marvin Bell written especially for this collaboration. My setting adds three purely instrumental sections: one each at the beginning, midpoint and end. Indeed, the song cycle attempts to reflect the way sound emanates from our earth and surrounding space, both through dreams and in waking. The violin, viola and cello each have solo roles to act as a foil and counterpoint to the singer’s attempt to convey presence and existence, just as the way each instrument in the quartet, in turn, “sings.” Five singers: five instrumentalists.
1. Naming the Unnameable
I came into this life singing,
And the song became my being.
The self of myself was taken
By pitch and cadence,
By timbre and intonation.
I became a breath held within
And a breath released.
I surrendered to a radiance,
To resonance, to reverberation.
I sang the wind inside me.
I freed a blood tide within.
And I looked, and I listened.
Where had the singer gone
When the sound moved on?
I had become every sound.
I had become every song.
Call me the flutter
Of orchestral strings.
Call me the quiver of vibrato.
Call me an instrument of air.
I am forever in the present,
Forever stirring the air.
No calendar can record my song.
My sound is the register
Of each and every frequency.
I purchase the silence, and I sing it.
2. Innuendoes of Earth
When the waves hushed me by the shore,
When I felt the wind silence me,
When the fog washed me,
And the fire unwrapped me,
Then I sang the song of pure sound.
Songs of hills and canyons,
Melodies of mesas and fast rivers,
Of storm and the aftermath of storm.
The earth rumbled in the cellars of sound.
The surf drummed the shore in a white rhythm.
Then I sang the song of no song.
I sang the soul of the planet.
Listen to Earth.
Earth has changed its mind about us.
If it has a pulse, is that not a heartbeat?
If it breathes, is that not a body?
3. Falling through Space
In song, I fly.
In space, I spread my arms.
I reach higher.
I feel gravity releasing me as I go.
I know you are out there.
I have heard you singing.
As if afloat in a calm sea,
Moving farther from shore,
I am paddling beyond the planets.
I cross into other galaxies.
Then I fall and am free.
The waves of my song are the sea.
I sing as I go.
Others will hear me, I know,
Beyond time and space.
It will be my way of taking you in my arms.
It will be the way I come to where you are.
4. Music of Two Spheres
Sleeping I am waking
And waking I am sleeping.
Dreaming, I rise, I fly.
By light of day, I fall.
I see a hand against a door.
I cannot see whose hand.
How deep is the dark
That myself cannot be seen?
Beginning to wake, to rise, still
I see only the dream of myself.
I try to leave my dream world.
An arm reaching, a foot stepping.
Who can tell me:
Am I awake or am I asleep?
When I hear a melody,
When I hear the music of the spheres,
I fall under its spell.
I spin with the planets in space.
How is it that I rise in sleep.
And fall awake?
So clearly does it seem so.
Oh, so it seems.
I rise into sleep.
I fall to be awake.
And rise. And fall.
Day marries night marries day.
In all of space, what will remain?
Can you hear the sun and moon?
I am not so far away.
Listen to my song.
Listen when my song has ended.
It will be my way of taking you in my arms.
It will be the way I come to where you are.
Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951)
String Quartet No.2, Op. 10
The Viennese-born Arnold Schoenberg’s early works reveal the influence of late German Romanticism that helped to establish him as a composer to watch. His earliest ventures into string quartet writing fit the mold established by Dvořak. His first published String Quartet No.1 (1905), which just explored the extremes of tonal harmony, gave only hints of the composer’s inclinations. It was with the String Quartet No. 2 that Schoenberg actually stepped into atonality, although not with the complete abandonment that was to lead to his development of the twelve-tone system. Late in 1907 when Schoenberg began work on the quartet he was already having marital problems. His wife, Mathilde, was having an affair with a young violinist friend of the family. During the summer of 1908 she left Schoenberg to live with her lover for several months. After Mathilde returned to her husband and children, her lover committed suicide. The emotional impact of these events may be seen in the changes in Schoenberg’s works of that period.
The String Quartet No. 2, Op.10 loosely follows the sonata form in its first two movements, although with incongruities. Schoenberg also introduced an innovation for string quartets by inserting a vocal soloist in the last two movements. The opening movement Mässig (moderate) begins with a brief theme which develops into a series of unrelated motifs, each sounds disharmonious but not quite dissonant. The entire movement gives the impression of a disturbing contemplation, and in that sense is unified. The Scherzo, Sehr rasch (very brisk), follows, with its increased pace in a rather sardonic vein albeit with the same quasi-dissonance of the first movement. In its middle section, the music is based on the melody Alles ist hin (All is lost), the final segment of the popular song of the time Ach du lieber Augustin. It is presumed that Schoenberg was referring to his marital problems. The slow third movement opens with a mélange of melodic fragments derived from the first two movements. Then the soprano voice enters singing a setting of Stefan George’s mournful poem Litanei (Litany). As the movement ends with the words “Nimm mir die liebe, gibt mir dein glück!” (Take away love from me, give me your joy!), the vocal line drops more than two octaves on the last syllables. With the final movement, the break with traditional tonality is made. It opens with ghostly instrumental music that introduces the singer’s lines from Stefan George’s poem Entrückung (Rapture): “Ich fühle luft von anderen planeten” (I feel the air of other planets). Schoenberg himself described writing the introductory music for the finale as “dissolved in swirling sound” to portray an interplanetary voyage. He was rather proud of the fact that he wrote the last movement without a key center or tonal hierarchy. Its first public performance in Vienna in December 1908 caused riots. Schoenberg later commented: “It seemed wrong to force a movement into…a tonality without supporting it by harmonic progressions that pertain to it…That I was the first to venture the decisive step will not be considered universally a merit…a fact that I regret but have to ignore.”
Songs of Love and Loss
Meagan Brus, Conor Hanick
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Six Romances, Op. 6 Selection
No. 1. Do Not Believe, My Friend
No. 2. Not a Word, O My Friend
No. 3. Both Painfully and Sweetly
No. 5. Why?
No. 6. None But the Lonely Heart
Dichterliebe, Op. 48 (1840)
1. Im wunderschönen Monat Mai
2. Aus meinen Tränen spriessen
3. Die Rose, die Lilie, die Traube, die Sonne
4. Wenn ich in deine Augen seh’
5. Ich will meine Seele tauchen
6. Im Rhein, im heiligen Strome
7. Ich grolle nicht
8. Und wüssten’s die Blumen, die kleinen
9. Das ist ein Flöten und Geigen
10. Hör’ich das Liedchen klingen
11. Ein Jüngling liebt ein Mädchen
12. Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen
13. Ich hab’im Traum geweinet
14. Allnächtlich im Traume
15. Aus alten Märchen winkt es
16. Die alten, bösen Lieder
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
Six Romances, Op. 6 (Nos. 1-3 and Nos. 5-6)
The popular Russian composer Tchaikovsky is best known for his vivid and colorful orchestral works, ballets and operas. However, in Russia he is equally respected and known for the 100 or so songs that he published during his career. These songs for voice and piano, some of which have been transcribed for orchestral accompaniment, are settings to works by Russian poets or to poems in their Russian translations. In style they are the equal match of the German Romantic lieder. For tonight’s recital, the performers chose to present five of the Six Romances of Op. 6, written for high voice and piano by Tchaikovsky in 1869.
In late November 1869, Tchaikovsky had been occupied with completing the overture to Romeo and Juliet. He complained in a letter to a friend, Aleksandra Davydova, about “... hurrying to finish my new overture...besides which I have a few other jobs to do; as a result my nerves are under considerable strain, and I intend to take some time off, i.e. do nothing apart from my classes.” A few days later in a letter to his brother Modest, expressing dismay at delays in the staging of his opera Undina, he wrote : “While my music is being held up, I’ve started to write some songs to earn a little money.” By mid December, in other letters, he revealed that his idleness was short-lived and “...last week I wrote six romances, which are going to be published.” The implication is that he wrote all six in one week!
The Six Romances, Op. 6 do not form a song cycle in the manner of Schumann’s Dichterliebe. While there are common themes of the loss or fears of the loss of love, and the pain of the experiences, there is no determinable sequence to the order of the songs. Thus they are often presented separately and in mixed order. They were first published by Pytor Jurgenson in March 1870 and subsequently repeated in their orginal keys, transpositions and arrangements. In 1890 they were published by Jurgenson in a collected edition of romances that were reviewed by the composer who insisted that some of them had to be corrected and some amended. Tchaikovsky shortened the text in two songs and made some alterations in four of them before he would allow their publication. In his later letters, Tchaikovsky, when referring to the Six Romances, would remark “…you know that out of all my romances only two are popular None but the Lonely Heart (No. 6) and Bitterly and Sweetly (No. 3).
The Romance, Op. 6 No. 1, Ne ver, moy drug (Do not believe, my friend) set to the text by A.K. Tolstoi, is dedicated to Alexandra Menshikova, who created the part of Mariya in Tchaikovsky’s opera The Voyevoda, performed in February 1869. This dramatic song explores the feeling when one is overshadowed by sorrow and asks a lover not to pay attention to any denials of returning the love for “ it will return.”
Romance No. 2, Ni slova, o drug may (Not a word beloved) is set to a poem by the Austrian, Moritz Hartmann, translated by Alexey Pleshcheyev. It is dedicated to Nikola Kahkin, a friend of Tchaikovsky, who also taught at the Moscow Conservatory where Tchaikovsky was teaching. With short phrases the song speaks of silently weeping, as one would grieve over a grave as a way of spending time with a lost lover.
Romance No. 3, I bol’no, i sladko (Both painfully and sweetly), uses a text by Evdokiya Rostophchina in an operatic-like setting. It is dedicated to Alexandra Kochetova, the singer at the Bolshoi and fellow professor with Tchaikovsky at the Conservatory, who was one of the first performers of Tchaikovsky’s works. The song, in a dramatic pulsating fashion, exclaims about the pain and sweetness, the heart-beating, the feverish feelings, the agitation and the pining until the fever of love is over and the heart may lighten, but then there would be nobody to listen, “both painfully and sweetly.”
Romance N. 5, Otchevo? (Why?) is set to the translation by Lev Alexandrovich Mey of the poem Why then are the roses so pale? by Heinrich Heine. The questioning, in short phrases, leads to the climax: “Why have you forgotten me?”
The Romance No. 6, Net kolko tot, kto znai (None but the lonely heart), the most popular and widely known of the Six Romances, is set to L.A. Mey’s translation of Mignon’s song Nur wer die Sehnsucht kent (Only he who knows longing) from Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister.
Don’t believe, my friend, when in a surge of sorrow
I say I don’t love you any more!
In the hours of ebb don’t believe that the sea has betrayed -
It will be back to the shore filled with love.
I’m already longing, full of the same old passion,
I’ll give my freedom back to you again,
And now the waves are running back with roaring
From a distance to the beloved shoreline.
No word, – not e’en a sigh, my darling!
Together now the silence keeping;
In truth as o’er some grave stone leaning
The silent willows low are weeping,
And drooping o’er it so are reading –
I read in thy tired heart at last,
That days of happiness existed,
And that this happiness is past.
Both painfully and sweetly
At the start of love
The heart now beats stealthily,
Now fever flows in the veins,
Both painfully and sweetly
Now blood is on fire.
Both painfully and sweetly!
When the time of our meeting comes,
With downcast eyes,
Agitated and pining,
Afraid but ready to declare my love,
I start and stammer.
And the meeting becomes a torment!
I start and stammer!
I cannot say a word.
I tremble, I become timid and dumb;
My soul, cursing its chains,
Would find expression.
I have no strength, no words,
And only look at you and keep silence!
Both painfully and sweetly.
The mad fever is over;
My heart is light and free.
It would be so easy to find words
But there is now nobody to listen,
Both painfully and sweetly.
Why are the roses so pale?
O speak, my love, why?
Why in the green grass
are the blue violets so silent?
Why with such a lamenting voice
does the lark sing in the sky?
Why from the balsam weed does there rise
the scent of wilting blossoms?
Why does the sun shine down on the meadow,
so coldly and morosely?
Why is the earth so gray
and desolate like a grave?
Why am I myself so ill and dull?
My lovely darling speak,
O speak, my heart’s most beloved love,
why have you abandoned me?
Lev Aleksandrovich Mey
from his poem Harpist’s Song (1857) — a translation from the German of Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt, in book 4 of the novel Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (1795)
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1748–1832)
None But the Lonely Heart
Only one who knows longing
Knows what I suffer!
Alone and cut off
From all joy,
I look into the firmament
In that direction.
Ach! he who loves and knows me
Is far away.
I am reeling,
My entrails are burning.
Only one who knows longing
Knows what I suffer!
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Dichterliebe, Op. 48
The song cycle Dichterliebe, composed by Schumann in a flurry of song writing in only one week in May 1840, heralded the onset of what has been called Schumann’s “song year” (completing 125 songs). The outburst was instigated by his having to wait for the resolution of the outcome of his lawsuit against Frederick Wieck, the father of his intended beloved bride Clara. The legal proceedings got in his way of composing major piano works, and he was obsessed with resolving the difficulties he had with one of his hands when playing the piano. He found that writing songs helped him to work out his frustrations as well as to ventilate his emotions As he expressed in a letter to Clara: “I can’t tell you how easy it is for me [to write songs] and how happy this makes me.”
From the start Schumann was drawn to use the poems of Heinrich Heine, the German Romantic poet whose poems imparted a sense of intimacy, touched with irony, and often dealt with unrequited love. He selected 20 poems for his original cycle from the voluminous collection Lyriches Intermezzo by Heine that had been published in 1827. But Schumann withdrew four pieces before publishing the final 16-song cycle in 1844 under the title Dichterliebe (Poet’s Love).
Schumann’s cycle follows the sequence of Heine’s first seven poems and ends with Heine’s last (65th) poem, thus progressing from the awakening of love with the renewal of life in the spring to the burying of love and dreams of love in the Rhine River. The songs have no narrative but express varying attitudes toward love. They are truly duets for voice and piano in the style that had been set by Schubert, with the piano taking a prominent role in the songs. The piano often sets the mood or texture of individual songs. The sensitivity of the declamatory rhythm of speech in the vocal line is manifested throughout. There are extended piano postludes that match the poignant ending of Heine’s verses.
Songs 1-5 have been likened to an “opening scena” of the cycle. Song 1 (Im wunderschönen Monat Mai), in two brief verses, sets the stage for the entire cycle, pointing to the time when buds are bursting, birds singing and the stirrings of love are felt but not yet realized. In Songs 2-5 we hear and feel the pains of love that are ameliorated by the blossoming of flowers, the intensity of the feelings and their overwhelming blotting out of everything else for the lover. Songs 6 and 7 may be thought of as the “core” of the cycle as they are starkly different in their content. They intrusively introduce references to the Rhine, “the holy river” and the city of Cologne with its picture of the Virgin Mother (“Liebe Frau”) in Song 6. Song 7 gives the first indication of being broken-hearted about the prospect of losing love. Songs 8-12 form another change in the scena. Now we become aware of the intensity of the pain, the suffering and sorrow of being rejected. Song 11 describes the blow felt by having one’s beloved choose another, who then may in turn be rejected Es ist eine alte Geschichte (it is an old story). This always breaks the heart anew. Songs 12 -14 take us into the depth of the melancholy felt by the failure of love, the dwelling upon the images, the weeping extended into the dreams, and the pain of being confronted by the one who is now with somebody else, or out-of-reach. Songs 15 and 16 are seemingly out of balance with what has been transpiring. Song 15 hearkens to the past, to old fairy tales that have vanished. Song 16, the postlude of the cycle, bundles together the “old and evil songs” and buries them in an immense coffin in the Rhine, while the piano offers a languorous epitaph.
Supported by Hills Bank and Trust
Igor Stravinsky, Histoire du Soldat
(A Soldier’s Tale) (1918)
Text by Kurt Vonnegut (1993)
George de la Peña, Director
Saffron Henke, Assistant Director
Scott Dunn, Conductor
Ashley Pettit, Stage Manager
Dakota Gonzalez, The Soldier
Kristin Marrs, Red Cross Girl
Martin Andrews, The General
Tricia Park, Emmet Hanick, Benjamin Coelho, David Greenhoe, David Gier, Alan Lawrence, and Campbell MacDonald
Tonight’s concert features an unusual and fascinating alternative to the original libretto by Ramuz to Stravinsky’s Histoire du Soldat that has been used since the work was premiered in 1918. The new version set to a controversial libretto by the late Kurt Vonnegut was written some 70 plus years after the first presentation of Stravinsky’s original work. Sub-titled An American Soldier’s Tale, it was written to be performed with the same musical score and instrumentation by Stravinsky but completely transforms the intent and the impact of the original work. In the following notes, a review of the circumstances that brought forth both creations is provided with the hope that some insight about where Stravinsky and Vonnegut were “coming from”, so-to-speak, will help the reader understand and appreciate Histoire du Soldat in whatever form it is presented,
Igor Stravinsky (1887-1971)
Histoire du Soldat (A Soldier’s Tale)
with libretto by C-F Ramuz
Stravinsky is world-famous for his colorful, fabulous and provocative ballets, a host of orchestral, instrumental and theatrical scores and other genres of music. He was always experimenting with musical forms as changes were being introduced at the turn of the 20th century and into its early decades. The onset of World War I and its aftermath were contributing factors to these changes. In Russia at the time, the war and revolutionary rumblings had made it practically impossible for Stravinsky to support his family. To augment his meager finances, he turned to the idea that he could solve his problems by writing a theatrical work that would be economical and easy to produce. It had to be one that could be done on a small scale, be portable, and musically presented in a straightforward manner, with simple action, all concisely expressed.
In 1917 Stravinsky began working on Histoire du Soldat (A Soldier’s Tale) with the Swiss writer Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz (1878-1947) and a friend, the painter/designer René-Victor Auberjonois, with whom Stravinsky had previously worked on ballet productions. The music is set to a story written by Ramuz about the fate and antics of an itinerant soldier-fiddler, a princess and the Devil, derived from a collection of mythical Russian tales. Stravinsky wrote the score for an ensemble of seven instruments: violin, double bass, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, trombone and percussion. All that was needed would be a speaker who serves as a narrator, two dramatic actors playing the parts of the soldier and the Devil and a dancer for the role of the princess. The action would be essentially mime-like, which lent the work the character of a musical burlesque show, similar to those that were popular in Europe for many years. In actual practice, how the theatrical work is staged may vary, depending upon the venue and the director for its presentation.
The music written for Histoire du Soldat was strikingly bold and unique in sound. It contains elements of the then new serialism, use of dissonance, and bits of jazz (ragtime) that had attracted Stravinsky in his exploration of anti-Romantic outlets for his creative expression at this stage of his career. The work had its première in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1918. It was scheduled to be taken on tour but the Spanish Flu epidemic of the period brought that to an end. While waiting for its revival, Stravinsky made some minor changes in the score but essentially retained the same music he had set to the story.
Igor Stravinsky & Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (1922- 2007)
An American Soldier’s Tale (1993)
In 1993 the New York Philomusica sought to commission a contemporary writer/poet to create a new libretto for Stravinsky’s Histoire du Soldat as an up-grading for modern audiences. They chose Kurt Vonnegut, the iconoclastic novelist, science fiction-writer and author of the literary masterpiece Slaughterhouse-Five. Vonnegut first rejected the offer, then changed his mind One can glean how this came about from an account by Vonnegut he recalled 16 years later in an interview with the reporter Alicia Zukerman, that was transcribed in the magazine New York (March 2006). This bore the subtitle “The desecration of Stravinsky’s romanticized A Soldier’s Tale.” Zukerman asked him how he got the commission. As he recalled what happened about 30 years earlier, he was asked to be the narrator for a concert by “ a small orchestra” and agreed, if they would send him the libretto. He read it and thought about a soldier carrying a violin: “...you know soldiers get rained on, and a violin wouldn’t have a chance–so it was– just preposterous.” Then he thought about the work having been premiered in 1918 during a horrible war for soldiers and that made it all the more “preposterous”. So he declined to do the narration. Sometime later (in 1991?) he was invited to a party at George Plimpton’s, the president of the board of the New York Philomusica. Also at the party was the artistic director of the orchestra who had been trying to get Vonnegut to write the new libretto. It was to be ready to be performed during the Philomusica’s 1992-1993 season. Vonnegut, in his typical way, bluntly brought up the subject, saying to Plimpton, as he recalled it, “what a piece of crap” he thought the narration was in Histoire du Soldat. Plimpton challenged him to write a good one. Being directly challenged in front of everybody, Vonnegut recalled thinking that: “Stravinsky certainly not known for his graceful marriage of text and music. The music itself had a nasty edge—sort of Kurt Weill sound, which was quite appropriate for 1918. I don’t think he gave a damn about the text, and the war was unthinkable, it was just so awful. The folk legend came into being maybe 100 years before. A soldier was just another guy— there wasn’t a huge war going on.... modern war hadn’t begun yet. In 1918, to be a soldier was really something.” Thus, he changed his mind, accepted the challenge and took on the commission. He recalled thinking about Private Ed Slovik, the only person to be executed in the face of the enemy since the Civil War. “Ike signed his death certificate. They stood him up and they shot him.”
Vonnegut changed the story completely, and produced the script in the next three weeks. The changes reflect what he felt about the whole situation, why he thought the original libretto was ridiculous and his own experiences as a soldier in combat. It must be remembered that Vonnegut had been a soldier in World War II. He was in a combat mission when he was captured and sent to an underground prisoner-of-war camp in Dresden until freed when Germany surrendered in 1945. In Dresden, he and his fellow-prisoners endured and survived the terrifying hell of the devastation of that city by Allied day and night fire-bombing At the time, he and his buddies were forced to collect and dispose of the bodies of the civilian victims of the bombing. Years later the war and bombing experiences, having “burned in his brain,” prompted Vonnegut to write the novel Slaughterhouse-Five and influenced his outspoken negative attitudes about the military and war.
For his libretto, Vonnegut chose the story of Eddie Slovik, the American soldier who was charged with desertion during combat, arrested, tried and executed on orders of General Eisenhower. This was to be a lesson to all other would-be deserters, of which there were many who, although captured, charged and imprisoned, were not executed. Vonnegut based his text very loosely on the nonfiction book, The Execution of Private Slovik that drew much attention when it was published in 1954. His text was written to fit, with all its “edginess” and stridency, Stravinsky’s music. He kept the original French title Histoire du Soldat, but added the English title, An American Soldier’s Tale.
Four actors take the roles in the dramatization of the story: the General (and opening narrator), Private Slovik, a Red Cross nurse and a military policeman (MP). The work opens with an extended narration, without music, that introduces why this particular story is told in place of a mythical one about a soldier with a violin who makes a pact with the Devil. It sets the stage for what is to transpire and pays homage to the music of Stravinsky because it fits the theme of the new story. What follows in rapid succession (without the “narratives” that were without music as used in the original version) is the unfolding of Eddie Slovik’s story. We hear and feel, through the intensity of the language and the emotions they invoke, what prompted Eddie’s decisions, his encounters with the Red Cross Nurse, the function and attitudes of an MP and learn Eddie’s final fate. The music is relentless, and includes the sounds of marches and dances (songs), that despite their separate descriptive titles (Marches, Airs by a Stream, Pastorale, The Devil’s Song, etc.) convey the emotional extremes: sarcasm, bitterness and despair. Halfway through in one long sequence (The Three Dances) the grotesqueness of movements and uneasiness is conveyed by the music alone, if one considers the context of the occasion. The language of the text, and in a few rhymes, is terse, blunt and ripe with the explicit profanity used by the American GI. This profanity probably added to the controversy about accepting the Vonnegut version as an appropriate alternative for the original one. However, the chief reason for the delay in getting An American Soldier’s Tale out to the public after its first performances was an international copyright dispute that took several years to resolve. Not until very recently could it even be recorded for sale to the public.