Vier Gesänge nach Rimbaud; Singstimme (Hoch) und Klavierby Thomas Müller;Drei Lieder: nach Gedichten von Edgar Allan Poe; für Sopran und Orchester (1980/82)by Aribert Reimann;Three Auden Songs; For Tenor and Pianoby Hans Werner Henze

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  • Vier Gesnge nach Rimbaud; Singstimme (Hoch) und Klavier by Thomas Mller; Drei Lieder:nach Gedichten von Edgar Allan Poe; fr Sopran und Orchester (1980/82) by AribertReimann; Three Auden Songs; For Tenor and Piano by Hans Werner HenzeReview by: Michael SaffleNotes, Second Series, Vol. 42, No. 3 (Mar., 1986), pp. 662-664Published by: Music Library AssociationStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/897371 .Accessed: 14/06/2014 06:06

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  • 662 MLA Notes, March 1986

    ance ("Lenny the leopard" for Leonard Bernstein; the others honoring Arthur Berger, Harold Shapero, Lukas Foss, Ar- thur Cohn, and Alexei Haieff). The moods of the songs vary according to the texts: the charming nonsense verse of "Polaroli" ("the polar bear") is set in Fine's rollicking neo- classic style, while the rather wistful tale of "Lenny the leopard" (who "hated his spots") is much more lyrical. The last song in the cycle, "The duck and the yak," is perhaps the most amusing of all. This quasi-oper- atic parody comes complete with the oblig- atory big finish-a climax which seems to last forever and is the perfect foil for the irresistably silly text.

    It is good to see Fine's cycle (originally published in two separate sets by Boosey & Hawkes) reissued by G. Schirmer in its en- tirety. Composed in 1954 and 1955, these songs still sound remarkably fresh and are highly recommended. If performance of the complete set isn't possible, singers should consider selecting one or two songs as en- cores-audiences will find them delightful, especially if they are performed without a hint of archness.

    A first-rate version of four of the six Childhood Fables may be heard on New World Records (NW 300). Baritone Wil- liam Parker captures the slyly humorous flavor of the texts perfectly, and his diction is exemplary. The complete cycle is cur- rently available on Composers Recordings (CRI SD 460) with soprano Susan Davenny Wyner. Although there is nothing partic- ularly objectionable in Wyner's interpreta- tion, her efforts lack flair, and the trans- position of the songs to a higher key dilutes the effectiveness of the performance.

    Thomas Pasatieri. Three Sonnets from the Portuguese; for voice and piano. Text by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. New York: Schirmer, 1984. [Score, 16 p.; $4.50]

    Few critics, performers, or audiences are neutral about Thomas Pasatieri's vocal mu- sic. Audiences often respond enthusiasti- cally to the composer's unabashed roman- ticism, while many performers have been grateful for the chance finally to sing some "good tunes." Most critics, on the other hand, have been offended by what they perceive as a tremendously calculated com-

    positional style. John Rockwell, in his All American Music (New York, 1983), dis- misses Pasatieri (along with kindred spirit Gian Carlo Menotti) as a composer of "cyn- ical anachronisms" (p. 212). Rockwell's as- sessment seems almost benevolent when compared with the particularly cruel re- mark found in the article on Pasatieri in the latest edition of Baker's Biographical Dic- tionary of Musicians (New York, 1984, p. 1727).

    Three Sonnets from the Portuguese will do nothing to alter the opinions of Rockwell, the anonymous critic quoted in Baker's, or the composer's advocates. This work for voice and piano features the familiar lyric vocal lines, lush harmonies, and the highly developed theatrical sense found in many of the composer's previous pieces. Eliza- beth Barrett Browning's poems fit Pasatieri to perfection, and even his harshest de- tractors cannot deny that he has a gift for writing effortlessly and sympathetically for the voice.

    Singers are thus forewarned: If you liked Pasatieri in the past, you'll admire him here again. If, however, you agree with this re- viewer that the composer's style could bet- ter be tagged retro-mantic (Puccini really wrote much better tunes, and was rarely as bombastic), you'd better avoid Three Sonnets from the Portuguese.

    LAURA DANKNER Loyola University,

    New Orleans

    Thomas Muller. Vier Gesange nach Rimbaud; Singstimme (hoch) und Klavier. Leipzig: Deutscher Verlag fur Musik, 1984. [Score, 24 p.; no price cited]

    Aribert Reimann. Drei Lieder: nach Gedichten von Edgar Allan Poe; fur Sopran und Orchester (1980/82) [2222; 211; 2 harps; str.; solo so- prano]. Mainz: Schott (European American), c1982. [Score, 98 p.; $52.00] Hans Werner Henze. Three Auden Songs; for tenor and piano. Mainz: Schott (European American), 1984. [Score, 19 p.; $9.95]

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  • Setting a poem written in a foreign lan- guage to music can defeat a composer, or it can stimulate him to more intense-and, occasionally, finer-efforts. Thomas Muil- ler's Vier Gesange nach Rimbaud for so- prano or tenor and piano, Aribert Rei- mann's Drei Lieder nach Gedichten von Edgar Allan Poe for soprano and orchestra, and Hans Werner Henze's Three Auden Songs for tenor and piano are sometimes perplexing, frequently moving, almost always musically successful works. All three composers have grappled with texts that puzzle literary critics. All three have achieved different kinds and degrees of success: Muller's songs are graceful, Reimann's powerful, Henze's beautiful. Although Muiller's and Rei- mann's works are praiseworthy, Henze's Auden Songs demand the attention of everyone interested in the finest contem- porary music.

    The least familiar in America, Thomas Miller was born in Leipzig in 1939. After studying piano and composition at the Mu- sikhochschule in Dresden, he joined the musical staff of the Deutsche Staatsoper in 1962 and later served as Kapellmeister in Stralsund, Wittenberg, and Halle. The cre- ator of several large orchestral works and two string quartets, Muller has also set to music a group of Altjapanische Gesdnge (1973). Judging from this latter work and from his Rimbaud songs, Miller has suc- ceeded in developing a confident, but not strikingly original, style. His music blends something of Webern's delicate, yet steel- strong, precision with Dallapiccola's lyri- cism and easy-going manipulation of serial techniques.

    Each of Muller's Vier Gesdnge is short, straightforward, and somewhat impersonal in approach. Unfortunately, the facsimile edition of these songs published by the VEB Deutscher Verlag is difficult to read. Many composers now produce copy almost indis- tinguishable from engraved work or the finest computer print; Muller is not among them. Performers familiar with contem- porary vocal scores will encounter compar- atively few technical difficulties in Muller's songs, but leaps of ninths and elevenths in the vocal line and overlapping rhythmic patterns between voice and accompani- ment may cause problems for less experi- enced performers.

    The Vier Gesange nach Rimbaud are al- most uniformly graceful works, well-

    Music Reviews 663

    wrought, sometimes playful. (The off-cen- ter "march" that opens "Enfance I," the third song, is a case in point.) Nowhere in these compositions, though, does Muller quite give Rimbaud's eccentric verse its due. In the vocal part of "Veilees"-"C'est le re- pos eclaire, ni fivre, ni langueur, sur le lit ou sur le pre" ("It is clear-minded rest, nei- ther fever nor langor, on the bed or meadow")-Miiller provides clear-minded and supple music for Rimbaud's words, but the subtleties of Rimbaud's verse rhythms completely disappear in the process. This line, balanced between three phrases of seven, six, and seven syllables, establishes a sense of repose through its internal struc- ture. Muller ignores these rhythms; in fact, he virtually buries the syllable "re" in "eclaire" in measure 20, then stretches "pre" through two measures. Beginning at mea- sure 32, Muller splits up the phrase "C'est l'ami ni ardent ni faible" ("It's the friend, neither ardent nor weak") into two shorter phrases, each separated by piano arpeggios and glissandos; he does the same with "C'est l'aimee ni tourmentante ni tourmentee" ("It is the lover, neither tormenting nor tor- mented"). The effect is graceful, but little more; no strangeness, no torment, but only balance is left us. (To be absolutely fair, Muller gives the word "langueur" an ele- gant descending phrase in measures 25-26.) Rimbaud's peculiar vision is lost in a forest of notes.

    Reimann's Drei Lieder nach Gedichten von Edgar Allan Poe are very different from Miller's Rimbaud songs. Like Rimbaud, Poe wrote cryptic verse, filled with haunting phrases and meticulously worked-out metrical effects. For his composition Rei- mann wisely chose three of Poe's less fa- miliar poems: "Sonnet-Silence," "Dream- land," and "To-." Poe muses on "incorporate things," refers to "forms no man can discover," bemoans the fate of a "passer by" in this disappointing world. With texts of this kind and such instruments as the alto and bass flute, English horn, bass clarinet, contrabassoon, and two harps, Reimann is well equipped to create spooky and even spectacular effects.

    "Sonnet-Silence" opens with solos for trumpet, piccolo, and bass flute which gradually intertwine over an accompani- ment for the two harps. By the time the soprano enters at measure 9 with the words "There are some qualities-some incor-

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  • 664 MLA Notes, March 1986

    porate things, / That have a double life," the listener should already be enchanted. By the moment in "Dreamland" when she has sung "By a route obscure and lonely/ Haunted by ill angels only" and the con- trabassoon, bassoon, and bass clarinet have completed their very effective obligatos, the listener should be holding his breath. The tone clusters played pianissimo by the massed strings behind the words "out of SPACE- out of TIME" later in this movement; the seemingly endless vocal melisma on the words "sad waters" at measures 1 1-13; the use of sul ponticello, striking brass interjec- tions, and other effects dear to the hearts of opera-goers-all are carried off with en- thusiasm. Those sopranos and orchestras able to handle such difficult (and long!) movements with confidence should be able to create a sensation, especially before an English-speaking audience. Reimann matches the color and pacing of his music as closely as possible to the color and pac- ing of Poe's verse, and the results are al- most always impressive. In passing, I should also mention that the score is beautifully printed and a delight to read.

    Better-known than Muller or even than Reimann, Hans Werner Henze ranks among the most accomplished living com- posers of serious music. Henze, of course, has already set a number of "foreign-lan- guage texts" to music. In his opera Elegy for Young Lovers, for example, he worked with a libretto by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallmann. (Henze has also set Rimbaud to music, notably in Being Beauteous, his evoc- ative cycle for soprano, harp, and four vio- loncellos.) Like other of his works written since the mid-1970s, the Three Auden Songs recall their composer's earliest stylistic ef- forts, most notably his own brand of neo- classicism. Cool, carefully constructed, Henze's Auden Songs nevertheless achieve a more powerfully expressive effect than Muller's settings of Rimbaud, and Henze remains much more closely in touch with all aspects of his texts.

    In "In memoriam L.K.A., 1950-1952," every syllable stressed in Auden's poem is stressed in the music; every unstressed syl-

    lable is passed over fleetingly. Henze uses motivic repetition to underscore certain kinds of phrases. In "Rimbaud," the sec- ond song, the declamation is restless and relentless; sixteenth-note groups under- score such phrases as "rhetorician's lie," "senses systematically deranged," "gallop- ing through Africa." Henze's piano part supplements his vocal part but rarely imi- tates it. In "In memoriam," the rhythmic blandness of the vocal line is almost always set off by a syncopated piano part; in "Rimbaud," the piano part maintains rhythmic regularity and the vocal part hes- itates, then interrupts. Interestingly, both songs hover around the note D, yet end "out of key." In these and other ways, Henze manages to integrate three very different songs (on three very different texts) into what can be perceived as a single, inte- grated cycle.

    The masterpiece of this set is its third number, "Lay your sleeping head, my love." One of Auden's most appealing and fa- miliar poems, "Lay your sleeping head" consists of four stanzas of nine lines each. Henze sets these stanzas as both a strophic song and a short variation-set. The music for each stanza/variation begins with a ris- ing whole-tone scale on F, but each section begins somewhat differently (the first with voice and piano in unison, the second in rhythmic diminution, and so on). The pre- cisely graded dissonances, the elegance of the accompanimental figures, the aptness of every measure-these and other quali- ties make this last of the Auden Songs an im- pressive accomplishment. Singers and pia- nists will encounter few technical difficulties in these lovely songs, but they should be prepared to follow Henze's few expressive directions with care, and to be ready to put a great deal of work into achieving the "ut- ter simplicity" he calls for in the third song. Audiences will be certain to appreciate the careful interpretation such splendid works deserve.

    MICHAEL SAFFLE Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universitdt

    Frankfurt am Main

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    Article Contentsp. 662p. 663p. 664

    Issue Table of ContentsNotes, Second Series, Vol. 42, No. 3 (Mar., 1986), pp. 477-720Front Matter [pp. 477-482]The Burning Salamander: Assigning a Printer to Some Sixteenth- Century...

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