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Release Date: August 14, 2020
Catalog #: NV6304
Format: Digital & Physical

Window Panes

The Works of Elizabeth R. Austin

Elizabeth R. Austin composer

Navona presents WINDOW PANES, a cross section of works by compositional veteran Elizabeth R. Austin. The collection is the first to comprise a lifetime of the American's works into one album: and as the title insinuates, it is an album full of interwoven associations, subconscious reminiscences and intense melodic reflections, with decades of labor condensed into an hour of listening.

But WINDOW PANES isn't just an album; it's a musical biography. In 1959, Austin won a scholarship after Nadia Boulanger had heard her Three Rilke Lieder, featured here (the piano accompaniment played by Austin herself). But there are more recent works, too, such as her Symphony No. 1, Wilderness, originally recorded in Poland in 1991, and Symphony No. 2, Lighthouse, recorded in the Czech Republic in 2005. Strikingly, despite the decades between these works, the quality of the individual pieces has remained constant. In spite of their vast differences in complexity in terms of instrumentation of formal structure, one impressively finds the early exactly on par with the later symphonies.

Occasionally, times and places have influenced the pieces, such as An American Triptych, which incorporates elements of jazz and blues into a distinctly contemporary blend. For the Five Sonnets from the Portuguese, the traditional lyrics aren't an obstacle to the modern zeitgeist: indeed, they are so timeless that they would neither be out of place at a modernist concert in 1910's Vienna, nor a contemporary music recital in America today.

But perhaps the work hinting closest at Austin's own, personal nature is Puzzle Preludes. Ironically, its subtitles suggest it to be a set of preludes based on classical composers, but quite mischievously defies this expectation. It is here that Austin's own voice is heard most clearly.

WINDOW PANES is the distillate of a life dedicated to contemporary serious music: filled with complexity, diversity, and great dedication.


Hear the full album on YouTube

"Austin's musical language is quite densely effective in both its use of harmony and instrumentation"

MusicWeb International

Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 Symphony No. 1 "Wilderness" Elizabeth R. Austin Kraków Radio & Symphony Orchestra | Szymon Kawalla, conductor; Melinda Liebermann, Anthony King - reciters 19:03
02 Symphony No. 2 "Lighthouse": I. Lighthouse - Water Tower Mannheim - Watch Hill Elizabeth R. Austin The Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra | Joel Eric Suben, conductor 12:30
03 Symphony No. 2 "Lighthouse": II. Burlesque on a Theme by Johann Stamitz Elizabeth R. Austin The Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra | Joel Eric Suben, conductor 5:45
04 Symphony No. 2 "Lighthouse": III. Elegia Elizabeth R. Austin The Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra | Joel Eric Suben, conductor 4:54
05 An American Triptych: No. 1, Rag Quodlibet Elizabeth R. Austin Ulrich Urban, piano 2:08
06 An American Triptych: No. 2, The Bellagio Blues Elizabeth R. Austin Ulrich Urban, piano 3:54
07 An American Triptych: No. 3, Hoedown Elizabeth R. Austin Ulrich Urban, piano 2:39
08 Sonnets from the Portuguese: No. 1, The Face of All the World Elizabeth R. Austin Melinda Liebermann, soprano; Cornelius Witthöft, piano 3:04
09 Sonnets from the Portuguese: No. 2, Say Over Again Elizabeth R. Austin Melinda Liebermann, soprano; Cornelius Witthöft, piano 2:13
10 Sonnets from the Portuguese: No. 3, Unlike Are We Elizabeth R. Austin Melinda Liebermann, soprano; Cornelius Witthöft, piano 3:00
11 Sonnets from the Portuguese: No. 4, First Time He Kissed Me Elizabeth R. Austin Melinda Liebermann, soprano; Cornelius Witthöft, piano 1:50
12 Sonnets from the Portuguese: No. 5, How Do I Love Thee? Elizabeth R. Austin Melinda Liebermann, soprano; Cornelius Witthöft, piano 2:39
13 Puzzle Preludes (Excerpts): No. 1, Brahms Elizabeth R. Austin Ulrich Urban, piano 2:05
14 Puzzle Preludes (Excerpts): No. 2, Bach Elizabeth R. Austin Ulrich Urban, piano 1:47
15 Puzzle Preludes (Excerpts): No. 3, Chopin Elizabeth R. Austin Ulrich Urban, piano 1:35
16 Puzzle Preludes (Excerpts): No. 5, Beethoven Elizabeth R. Austin Ulrich Urban, piano 1:41
17 Puzzle Preludes (Excerpts): No. 6, Mendelssohn Elizabeth R. Austin Ulrich Urban, piano 1:52
18 3 Rilke Lieder: No. 1, Autumn Day Elizabeth R. Austin Amanda Kohl, soprano; Christopher Grundy, baritone; Elizabeth R. Austin, piano 2:33
19 3 Rilke Lieder: No. 2, Autumn Elizabeth R. Austin Amanda Kohl, soprano; Christopher Grundy, baritone; Elizabeth R. Austin, piano 2:03
20 3 Rilke Lieder: No. 3, Lovesong (Arr. for Voice Duet) Elizabeth R. Austin Amanda Kohl, soprano; Christopher Grundy, baritone; Elizabeth R. Austin, piano 2:36

Text from the poem Wilderness by Carl Sandburg

Text by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Text by Rainer Maria Rilke
translation Elizabeth R. Austin

Elizabeth R. Austin's music is published by the AMERICAN COMPOSERS ALLIANCE (

Recorded June, 1991 in the Concert Hall of Kraków in Kraków, Poland
Session Producer Jerzy Norowol
Session Engineer Malgorzata Polanska Szostakowska
Session Editor Lech Polwinski

Recorded May 24, 2005 in the Concert Hall of Olomouc in Olomouc, Czech Republic
Session Engineer Frantisek Poul

Recorded privately in 2004, in Leipzig, Germany
Session Engineer Albrecht Urban

TRACK 8-12
Recorded 1992 at the Staatliche Musikhochschule in Heidelberg/Mannheim, Germany
Session Engineer Manuel Veronesi

TRACK 13-16
Recorded live October 19, 2019 at the Paliesiaus Manor in Mielagenu, Lithuania
Session Engineer Andrius Vasiliauskas

TRACK 17-19
Recorded November 12, 2019 at Hartt School of Music Recording Studio, the University of Hartford in West Hartford CT
Session Engineer Shane Carroll

Executive Producer Bob Lord

Executive A&R Sam Renshaw
A&R Director Brandon MacNeil
A&R Jacob Smith

VP, Audio Production Jeff LeRoy
Audio Director Lucas Paquette
Mastering Shaun Michaud

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming
Publicity Patrick Niland, Sara Warner

Artist Information

Elizabeth R. Austin


Elizabeth R. Austin's music is meticulous and complex, filled with movement, growth, and turning points. Not a bad description for her own life.” This quote, from an article in SCOPE (Winter, 2011) written by Michael K. Slayton, continues to be relevant to this octogenarian, whose focus on writing music has become even more intense!



Most of the music on this album uses a stylistic trait, inspired by imagining the mind’s eye peering through an aural window pane (or porthole) to a musical landscape, a “remembrance of things past,” Michael K. Slayton describes this technique in my music in Chapter One of his book Women of Influence in Contemporary Music: Nine American Composers, Scarecrow Press, 2011: pp.19-23.

Slayton quotes me: “What engages me is to so imbed tonal quotes from music of the past in my own pantonal fabric, that what has sounded familiar becomes transformed into something foreign and fleetingly invasive. An associative web of aural memories, threads of musical nostalgia, appear with startling recognition before departing with ease. It is as though my own music is caught off balance by an ‘invader’, wrapped in familiar disguise. Lo and behold, my contemporary harmonic fabric begins to sound ‘right’ to the listener, while the audacious tonal quote seems oddly out of place.”

The first example of ‘windowpaning’ appears in “Wilderness” Symphony (No. 1), which sets Sandburg’s poem “Wilderness”, a psychological habitat of our subconscious bestiary. The ‘heartbeat’ motive suggests a similar life force to that of Stravinsky’s Petroushka, whose will to live bursts the bonds of the spirit. Steven Metcalf (The Hartford Courant, 1988) writes: “with deft, sparkling orchestrations...and quotes from American folk tunes, “Wilderness” Symphony showed both craft and spirit.”

“Lighthouse” Symphony (No. 2) also contains many quotes, all related through pitch. Peter Burwasser writes (Fanfare, 2008, Vol. 31, No. 6): ”Elizabeth R. Austin’s... three-movement symphony manages the remarkable feat of being strikingly original at the same time that it is jam-packed with musical quotations.... The immediate inspiration of the music is the sea (Debussy’s La Mer is quoted early on), which she conjures with explosive crescendos and glistening tonality. It is fun to try to identify the quotes, but more important is the cohesion and power of the music as a whole.” Cross currents between the various quotations interact with the ‘lighthouse’ motive, with some passages, such as Wolf’s Mondnacht (Moonlit Night) even providing optical allusions.

An American Triptych offers the Bach family’s party amusement with musical quotations called a ‘quodlibet’. Their musical high spirits produced a rowdy juxtaposition of familiar tunes in patchwork style. The ‘Hoedown’ compresses snippets of American folk tunes in a rough and tumble “blaze of fun” (Patella, “New Music Connoisseur”, Vol 7).

Sonnets from the Portuguese contain self-quotes in cyclical fashion, with much of the thematic material recurring in varying guises.

Each of the Puzzle Preludes (selected) center around a musical quote, cited either verbatim or intentionally ‘bent’. “Her piano style is a quite original one, which, apparently effortlessly, cites past works and develops them.” (Thomas Schlage, Mannheimer Morgen, 1998).” Again Michael Slayton (pp.20-23): Puzzle Preludes, “the zenith illustration of the windowpane method, offers quotations as musical puzzles for the player (and capable audience members) ... the listener is invited to guess the source of each quote ... As passages from the past arise fully intact or as a mere caress of something familiar, the listener is left pondering, ‘Did I just hear what I think I heard?’... Austin’s music seeks to do more than simply conjoin the past with the existing world; it means to intertwine them, to make them coexist, to evolve them into something entirely new...This is the imperative for Austin - the artist as a vessel, ‘through which the stuff of the cosmos is allowed to flow’.” Lastly, Fred Patella views this “playful set featuring quotes and impressions of famous piano music” as “the first hint of the loving tribute Austin’s music exudes, not only to composers from the past, but to music in general.”

The vocal music on this album does not contain any quotes. The poem texts in a song must be front and center! Our opera, I am one and double too, however, is a musical retrospective of a lifetime of composing; it is full of windowpaning, even involving taking selfies!

— Elizabeth R. Austin


Text from the poem Wilderness by Carl Sandburg

There is a wolf in me...
fangs pointed for tearing gashes...
a red tongue for raw meat...
and the hot lapping of blood-
I keep this wolf because
the wilderness gave it to me
and the wilderness will not let it go.

There is a fox in me...
a silver gray fox...
I sniff and guess...
I pick things out of the wind and air...
I nose in the dark night
and take sleepers and eat them
and hide the feathers...
I circle and loop and double-cross.

There is a hog in me...
a snout and a belly...
a machinery for eating and grunting...
a machinery for sleeping satisfied in the
I got this too from the wilderness and the wilderness will not let it go.

There is a fish in me...
I know I came from salt blue water- gates...
I scurried with shoals of herring...
I blew waterspouts with porpoises...
before land was..before Noah...
before the first chapter of Genesis.

There is a baboon in me...
yawping a galoot’s hunger...
hairy under the armpits...
here are the hawk-eyed hankering men...
here are the blond and blue-eyed women...
here they hide curled asleep, waiting...
ready to snarl and kill...
ready to sing and give milk..waiting...
I keep the baboon because the wilderness
says so.

There is an eagle in me and a mockingbird...
and the eagle flies
among the Rocky Mountain of my dreams
and fights among the Sierra crags of what
I want...
and the mockingbird warbles in the early
before the dew is gone,
warbles in the underbrush of my Chattanoogas of hope,
gushes over the blue Ozark foothills of my wishes-
and I got the eagle and the mockingbird from the wilderness.

Oh, I got a zoo.
I got a menagerie inside my ribs,
under my bony head, under my red-valve
and I got something else:
it is a man-child heart, a woman-child heart:
it is father and mother and lover:
it came from God-Knows-Where:
it is going to God-Knows-Where-
For I am the keeper of the zoo:
I say yes and no:
I sing and kill and work:
I am a pal of the world:
I came from the wilderness.

From Cornhuskers, copyright 1918 by Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, Inc. and renewed 1946 by Carl Sandburg, recorded by permission of Harcourt, Brace & Company.

Wolfgang Borchert’s “lighthouse” poem, recited in the first movement, describes an artistic voice in need: From Laterne, Nacht, und Sterne, 1946, Rowohlt Theater Verlag. Translation by Elizabeth R. Austin

I wish I were a lighthouse in night and wind — for cod and smelt, for every boat — yet am myself a ship in need!

Text by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I. The face of all the world
The face of all the world is changed, I think,
Since first I heard the footsteps of thy soul
Move still, oh still, beside me as they stole
Betwixt me and the dreadful outer brink of obvious death,
where I who thought to sink
Was caught up into love, and taught the whole
Of life in a new rhythm.
The cup of dole God gave for baptism,
I am fain to drink,
And praise its sweetness, Sweet, with thee anear,
The name of country, heaven, are changed away
For where thou art or shall be, there or here;
And this- this lute and song- loved yesterday,
(The singing angels know) are only dear
Because thy name moves right in what they say.

II. Say over again
Say over again and yet once over again
That thou dost love me.
Though the word repeated
Should seem a cuckoo song, as thou dost treat it,
Remember, never to hill or plain,
Valley or wood, without her cuckoo strain
Comes the fresh spring in all her green completed!
Beloved, I, amid the darkness greeted
By a doubtful spirit voice, in that doubt’s pain
Cry, “Speak once more, thou lovest!”.
Who can fear too many stars,
Though each in heaven shall roll,
Too many flowers, though each shall crown the year?
Say thou dost love me, love me, love me-
Toll the silver iterance!- only minding, Dear,
To love me also in silence with thy soul.

III. Unlike are we
Unlike are we, unlike, O princely heart!
Unlike our uses and our destinies.
Our ministering two angels look surprise on one another
As they strike athwart their wings in passing.
Thou, bethink thee, art a guest for queens to social pageantries,
With gazes from a hundred brighter eyes
Than tears even can make mine, to ply thy part of chief musician.
What hast thou to do with looking from the lattice lights at me,
A poor tired wandering singer,- singing through the dark,
And leaning up a cypress tree?
The chrism is on thine head,- on mine, the dew,
And death must dig the level where these agree.

IV. First time he kissed me
First time he kissed me, he but only kissed
The fingers of this hand wherewith I write,
And ever since it grew more clean and white,-
Slow to world greetings, quick with its “Oh list,”
When the angels speak. A ring of amethyst
I could not wear here plainer to my sight
Than that first kiss.
The second passed in height the first,
And sought the forehead, and half missed,
O beyond need! That was the chrism of love
Which love’s own crown, with sanctifying sweetness did precede.
The third upon my lips was folded down
In perfect purple state. Since when indeed,
I have been proud to say, “My love, my own.”

V. How do I love thee?
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and Ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as men turn from Praise;
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, I love thee with the
Breath, smiles, tears of all my life!
And, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death.

Poetry by Rainer Maria Rilke
Translation by Elizabeth R. Austin

Autumn Day
Lord, it is time. The summer lingered long.
Lay your shadows on the sundials,
and in the meadows let the winds blow free.
Command the ripening fruits that they be full.
grant them two more warm and southerly days,
urge them to reach their perfection and press
the final sweetness into the heavy wine.
Who has no home now, builds a house no more.
Who is alone now, they shall long remain so,
awake and reading, writing endless letters,
will walk along the boulevard to and fro
restlessly strolling, as the leaves float down.

The leaves are falling, falling as from afar.
as if fading in the heavens’ distant gardens;
they fall down as with gestures of denial.
And in the nighttime, the heavy earth is falling
from all the stars down into solitude.
We are all falling. This hand now falls.
And look around you: it is in all of us.
And yet there is One who embraces this very falling
Unendingly and gently in his hands.

How shall I hold my soul apart from yours
so that they do not touch? How shall I
lift it high up over you to other things?
Oh willingly would I find it shelter with some
lost thing forlornly wandering in the darkness
in an unfamiliar silent place
which vibrates not when your very deepness vibrates.
Yet everything that touches us, you and me,
takes us together as a bow stroke does,
that out of two strings, a single voice is drawn.
Upon what instrument are we spanned?
And which Performer has us in his hand? O sweet song.