Three Settings of Ezra Pound was written in honor of composer Elizabeth Austin’s 75th year. Slayton completed this work over the course of that year, beginning on her birthday, July 15th, 2012 and ending on July 15, 2013. This was, says Slayton, “a quiet way to honor someone I truly admire.” Ezra Pound’s poetry finds its elegance in its pure and often smallish thoughts, and the three poems included in this set reflect that simplicity and wonder. “Although I was judicious,” explains Slayton, “It’s not so much about these particular poems; I chose poems that I loved and I thought had something to say about [Austin’s] way of looking at life.” Throughout the piece, fragile harmonies shimmer, a whisper away from their breaking points, creating for each word its own tiny world. –Aidan McCarter, ‘19
The arrival of World War I greatly affected Parisian composer, Maurice Ravel, Despite wanting to serve his country, he was unable to enlist due to his small stature and poor health. Yet, the fight still had not left Ravel, and he focused his nationalism and passion into his compositions. Out of these efforts, Ravel wrote his only work of choral literature, his Trois Chansons. Like Debussy, Ravel was inspired by the chansons of 14th century Gallic composer Clément Janequin. Through the combination of traditional musical forms and the modernism of the French impressionist movement, Ravel sought to preserve French history and culture.
Nicolette is the tale of a young girl picking flowers in the forest. On her travels she is greeted by a menacing wolf, a penniless suitor, and a corpulent, elderly man. She flees the creature and the lover, however when the older man offers her gold, she stays. Trois beaux oiseaux du Paradis (“Three Beautiful Birds of Paradise”) weaves a tragic tale of a lover lost to war. This is symbolized through the passing of three birds colored blue, white, and red, mirroring the French flag. The Ronde is a cautionary tale for children warning of the monsters that lie waiting in the woods. –Justin Westley, ‘18
Drawing on the terse, powerful imagery and spiritual themes of e.e. cummings, Eric Whitacre’s Three Songs of Faith explore the composer’s personal understandings and revelations of spirituality. Matching the mellow yet powerful tones of Cummings poetry with music, Whitacre delivers three pieces that provide intense, achingly beautiful music to an already profound text. With his Three Songs of Faith, Whitacre deepens an already famous catalog of ethereal, dense works of mystic beauty, in the vein of
works such as Night and Sleep. Each piece in this musical trilogy explores a unique aspect of the composer’s faith, while simultaneously vocalizing the original themes of cummings’ poetry.
With its passionate sensuality, “i will wade out” captures Cummings’ ode to love and vitality through the music’s rapturous harmonies and fluctuating dynamics. Perhaps the most impressionistic of the three, “hope, faith, life, love” gives wide fervency to Cummings’ sparse prose, providing a background of wonderment to Whitacre’s portrait of faith. Finally, Whitacre combines the broad color of the second piece with the passion of the first in a euphoric appeal of thanks to the Creator in “i thank You God for most this amazing day.” Together, the three pieces illustrate the full perceptions of Whitacre’s nuanced spirituality.
While putting poetry to music represents an old practice, it is Whitacre’s internalization of cummings’ themes that creates the majesty of the composition. The Three Songs of Faith represent a musical iteration of cummings’ poetry rather than an interpretation. Both artists share a streak of Impressionism in their rather contemporary works. Thus, the poetry and music parallel each other via their respective styles. –Carter Dvornik, ‘19
The seven poems that I have set in The Passing of the Year make up three ‘movements’. The first looks forward to summer, beginning with a line from Blake (‘O Earth, O Earth return!’). ‘The narrow bud’ comes from Blake’s To Autumn, but is a description of summer; the rapid questions of ‘Answer July’ suggest the quickening senses, the excitement of everything bursting into life, and summer’s triumphant arrival.
The second section follows the passing of summer. It begins in sultry heat, with a song from the opening scene of David and Bethsabe (‘Hot sun, cool fire’): a girl bathing in a spring feels the power and danger of her beauty. The section ends with the sense of mortality the Autumn brings: ‘Adieu! Farewell earth’s bliss’, from Summer’s Last Will and Testament, heralds the death of summer. The cycle ends in winter, on New Year’s Eve with a passage from Tennyson’s In Memoriam.
This song cycle is dedicated to the memory of my mother, who died too young. –Jonathan Dove
Blair is a conservatory-style music school where all students can take advantage of outstanding liberal arts offerings and rewarding curriculum, as part of the intellectual spirit and culture of Vanderbilt University. In our unique, undergraduate-only environment, students receive superb music training with excellent teachers, frequent performance opportunities, and exceptional facilities in a conservatory setting. Our faculty is dedicated to teaching and serving as role models for students with continuing involvement in performance, composition or research. The countless opportunities at Blair, in combination with those at Vanderbilt, allow students to pursue a wide variety of interests in addition to their musical focus; quite often, discovering new academic and artistic passions along the way.
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