The Twelve Songs of Emily Dickinson
reveal Copland's full expressive range at the height of his creative maturity. Born in 1900, he composed this cycle in 1949-50 after capturing several prestigious awards including the Pulitzer Prize. The voice and piano play nearly equal roles with each employing the full range of their respective instruments. Copland's textures are transparent much of the time, intervals carefully chosen and slightly dissonant. Some songs are rich in complexity, i.e. Nature, the gentlest mother
, There came a wind like a bugle, Going to Heaven,
while many songs allow the line to spin out with natural simplicity, i.e. The world feels dusty, Heart, we will forget him.
One setting in particular stands out for its unusual sense of fantasy aptly underscoring the surrealism of Dickinson's poem I felt a funeral in my brain.
Romantic gestures abound in the music. Copland, indicates numerous tempo fluctuations throughout, sometimes self-consciously having the pianist accelerate during the singer's held tones only to pull back as soon as the subsequent phrase sets in.
Siete Canciones Populares Espanolas by Manuel de Falla were written in 1914-15 and first performed in Madrid in 1915, the same year as the premiere of El Amor Brujo. While written for piano and voice, De Falla's settings have an intentionally guitaristic sound. Tempo fluctuation in these songs is not at all self-conscious but rather dictated by the natural feel of its Spanish folk rhythms. One of the loveliest moments in this opus, the lullaby Nana, is accompanied by the piano's approximation of a hammered dulcimer with its openly resonating strings. The voice takes on an ornamental quality evocative of the Middle East. Overall, the Spanish folk sound requires a different vocal quality from any of the other songs on this CD.
Melodies de Venise by Gabriel Faure (1845-1924) on poems by Verlaine were sketched out in Venice and Florence throughout the summer of 1891. It was the first time that Faure composed a series of songs and organized them into a cycle. The poems are linked to one another like a narrative. In turn the songs are thematically unified. Faure wrote over one hundred songs over a period of sixty years.
Richard Strauss (1864-1949) wrote over two hundred songs, mostly between 1885 and 1906. Many were written for his wife Pauline de Ahna. The songs included in this CD were individually selected. They were written between 1887 and 1899.
Faure and Strauss, while both products of the late 19th century, represent two opposite temperaments. The melodies of the former are classical in character whereas the lieder of the latter are distinctly romantic. Mandoline and C'est l'extase especially require a steadiness of pulse to be effective. Harmonically, though, Faure possesses his own unique sound. Strauss wrote at the height of the late Romantic tradition. His lines are long and emotional while his accompaniments are full of chromatic harmonies characteristic of his time, more predictable than that of Faure, but so beautifully conceived that they are widely regarded as masterworks in the art song literature.
Complete texts and translations are included in the booklet.