PROGRAM NOTES & TRANSLATIONS
Since time immemorial, humanity has been fascinated with nighttime, leading countless artists to explore the vastness of night’s enigmatic and alluring qualities. A unification of poetry and music, Art Song provides a wonderful genre with which to delve into the romance, beauty, longing, gloom, danger, mystery, and hope that lies between dusk and dawn. This recital aims to highlight the variety of art songs that have explored such themes, starting with serenades at sunset, and progressing musically through the night by exploring a variety of nocturnal themes until the sun rises yet again. Following “Dusk” and the romance it evokes, “Darkness & Memories” highlights the recollections which can entice or torture as nightfall settles in. “The Bewitching Hour” centers on supernatural creatures of the night, and superstitions that embody the peril and vulnerability humanity experiences in darkness; while “Dreams & Visions” delves into the splendor and magic of dreams, along with the stark reality that follows upon awakening. Finally, “Dawn” explores the sometimes regretful experience of night’s end, while ultimately celebrating the splendor that comes with the commencement of morning and the brilliance of the sun’s first rays.
I canti della sera (Songs of the Evening) by Francesco Santoliquido is a set of songs composed in 1908. Using a late romantic style, the songs are highly indebted to late 19th century opera composers such as Puccini. Santoliquido also wrote the poetry for these evening songs, and his use of nature in the text of each song provides a timeless framework in which to explore the many facets of romantic love. L’assiolo canta (The owl sings) uses sections of lush and lyric vocal writing over arpeggiated piano music, and contrasts them with recitativo-like sections with sparse piano accompaniment. This contrast between lyric and recitativo sections beautifully paint a feeling of hesitance as the poetry admits previously withheld feelings of love. L’alba di luna sul bosco (Moonrise over the Forest) contains a unifying theme of churning triplets in the piano, which add an exciting sense of urgency. The poem muses that the moon on the horizon could be either the rising or setting of love, and Santoliquido explores this insecurity of new love by setting the poetry with constantly changing tempos and climactic vocal lines. Tristezza Crepuscolare (Twilight Sadness) is perhaps the most complicated song in the set, in terms of both musical and thematic content. Describing the sad reminiscence of lost love, Santoliquido uses repeated pedal tones in the piano, a technique often used by composers to represent obsession over a certain thought. After an austere opening, the song grows into a powerful surge that leads into the next section, which describes hearing the many evening bells. Following the biggest outburst of the song, the music seems to fold back into itself, returning to the retrospective music with which it began. L’incontro (The Meeting) is a wonderfully passionate song about the rekindling of an old love. The arpeggiated piano writing is reminiscent of the first song, while the vocal line is more dramatic and through-composed. As the poetry vainly tries to remember the moment when the lovers first met, the music grows more complicated and impassioned. The music suddenly calms, and the poet implores his lover to never forget this renewed moment of love.
Come on! The forest shines serene
the night of the summer and the horned owl sings.
Come on, I plan to tell you what I never said.
And on the path bloom stars,
Let’s get together and there in the thick I'll tell you
I cried because you were not a sad evening.
Let’s get together. A mystery invites us,
Odes: the horned owl sings.
Alba di luna sul busco
Look, the moon is born all red
frozen in the sky like a flame,
The pond reflects this
and the water moved by the wind
seems to shake the ice.
What immense peace!
The sleeping forest,
is reflected in the pond.
How much silence around us!
Tell me: is this the sunset
or the dawn for love?
It is the evening.
The smell of dead leaves
Rises from the wet earth.
It is the hour of the bells,
It is the time in which I breathe
the vain perfume of a past love.
And I cry and dream.
It is the evening.
It is the evening, an evening full of bells,
an evening full of perfumes,
an evening full of memories
and dead sadness.
Cry, bells of the evening,
Fill up the heavens with melancholy,
Ah, cry more!
This is the hour of memories
And the hour in which the old flame
Rekindles itself desperately and burns itself!
Bells…odor of dead leaves,
I no longer remember
the first time we met
but it was certainly a distant evening
all suffused with pale sorrows
along a benign sea!
Sounds of bells and flocks came to us from afar
and a strange peace came to us from the sea.
I remember this!
What did we say to each other that day,
can you recall?
I no longer remember.
But what does it matter?
Today in my heart
Blooms the sweetness of that far away hour!
And it is charming to hold your white hand in mine
and talk of love.
The far away sounds of bells and flocks
Still come to us today.
and even today the ocean smiles
as it did long ago.
But today, if you perhaps still love me a little,
do not smile any longer.
Ah! Your hand trembles.
If today you give me your beautiful lips
We will never forget this moment of love!
DARKNESS & MEMORIES
Russian Art Song is a rich musical repertory, owing much of its style both to France’s strong artistic influence on Russia, and the many performances of Italian opera in Russia’s cultural centers. Ночь (Night) by Peter Tchaikovsky is an unusually stark example of this style of art song. The somber piano introduction establishes the musical themes, including an ascending diminished figure and a descending chromatic line, which will be explored throughout this short but dense song. The vocal line is declamatory, delivering Daniíl Ratgáuz’s dark poetry in bursts that grow more and more impassioned, before sinking back into the gloomy piano’s extended postlude. Редеет облаков летучая гряда (The Flying Clouds Are Thinning) is a lush song by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov that features surging piano music and vocal lyricism. This Pushkin poem describes a nighttime landscape, which leads to reminiscing on the passion of youth. Rimsky-Korsakov had extensive musical training, and this shows through his excellent use of formal structure, which at first brings out the rhyme scheme of the poetry before obscuring it as the song grows more frenzied. Of these three songs, Rachmaninoff’s wonderful setting of Alfansy Fet’s poem, В молчаньи ночи тайной (In the Silent Secret Night) shows the most operatic influence in its compositional style. The vocal music alternates between long lyric lines and short declamatory phrases, while the Rachmaninoff’s characteristic piano writing provides a dense orchestral texture. After a highly satisfying musical pinnacle crying out the beloved’s name, the music becomes faster but much softer. The final line is an elongated restatement of the text from the musical climax; however, this time it is urgently intimate with a long quiet high note held over hushed but restless music in the piano’s upper register.
Ночь, Op. 72, No. 3 (Noch’) – Peter Illych Tchaikovsky
The candle is flickering,
The gloomy darkness fermenting...
And my heart is being sqeezed
so mysteriously by sorrow ...
Upon my sad eyes
dreams quietly descend.
And in this moment my soul
is starting to talk to the days begone.
is worn out by sorrow...
Oh, come to me in my dream at least,
my friend who is so far away!
Редеет облаков летучая гряда, Op. 42, No. 3 (Redeyet oblakov) – Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
The floating chain of clouds is thinning.
Wistful star, Evening-star!
Your have turned the fading valleys, the slumbering bay,
and the tops of the black cliffs silver with your light.
How I love your dim light in the infinite heavens;
It has awoken my inner thoughts long at-rest:
I remember your ascending, familiar moonlight,
over that peaceful country, where all is so dear to my heart,
Where elegant poplars rise up in the valleys,
where the tender myrtle and dark cypress sleep,
and the noontime waves resound so sweetly.
There long ago in the mountains, full of ardent desire,
I passed my dreamy idleness on the seashore,
when night's shadow would descend over the homes --
and a young maiden searched for you through the dark
claiming to her friends that you were her very own.
В молчаньи ночи тайной, Op. 4, No. 3 (V molchanii nochi taynoy) – Sergei Rachmaninoff
In the silence of the mysterious night,
your alluring babble, smiles and glances,
your fleeting glances, the locks of your rich hair, locks pliant under your fingertips -
I will long be trying to get rid of the images only to call them back again;
I will be repeating and correcting in a whisper
the words I've told you, the words full of awkwardness,
and, drunk with love, contrary to reason,
I will be awakening the night's darkness with a cherished name.
The Bewitching Hour
Germany has a wonderfully rich body of folklore, and this has inspired many poets to feature the many supernatural creatures that are featured in those old stories. Wolfgang Hölty wrote the text to Hexenlied (Witch’s Song) motivated by legends of the witches of Brocken Mountain, where they held their magical rites. Mendelssohn set this poem to music with tremulous and crashing piano music underneath shouts and cries of “juchheissa” in the voice, however he masterfully uses intense and quiet dynamics to add a sense of mystery and danger. Nachtwanderer (Night Wanderer) is a haunting poem by Josef Eichendorff, which describes fiendish Night himself riding a brown horse until Day vanquishes them both to their grave. A wonderfully expressive late romantic composer, Korngold sets this poem with deeply chromatic harmony shifts and rhythmically driven piano music. The vocal line is suspenseful and dramatic, almost as if telling a ghost story, with sudden dynamic shifts to large outbursts or evocative whispers. Erlkönig (Elf King) is one of the most famous of all German Art Songs, and Schubert wrote this masterpiece when he was only a teenager. The powerful Johann Goethe poem describes a father riding quickly into town in order to save his feverish child, while the Elf King torments the boy. The setting features relentless triplets in the piano, painting the galloping horse, while the singer must portray the Narrator, the Father, the Son, and the Elf King with individualized voices. Schubert cleverly set each character in separate ranges and with varying dynamics to vividly bring this frightening story to life.
Hexenlied, Op. 8, No. 8 – Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
The swallow soars,
The spring outpours
Her flowers for garlands entrancing;
Soon shall we glide
Away and ride,
Hey-day, to the spirited dancing!
A buck that's black,
A broomstick o' back,
The prangs of a poker will pitch us;
We'll ride a steed
With light'ning speed
Direct to the mountain of witches.
The dancing bands
All kiss the hands
Like claws that belong to the devil,
While other swarms
Have grabbed our arms
And brandish their torches in revel!
Old Satan swears
To make repairs
With promise of marvellous pleasure;
All spirits glad
In silk are clad,
Unearthing great chestfuls of treasure.
A dragon flies
Now down from the skies
With presents of food for the table.
The neighbours sight
The sparks in flight
And cross themselves as fast as they're able.
The swallow soars,
The spring outpours
Her flowers for garlands entrancing;
Soon shall we glide
Away and ride,
Hey-day, to the spirited dancing!
Nachtwanderer, Op. 9, No. 2 – Erich Wolfgang Korngold
He rides at night on a brown horse,
He rides past many a castle:
Sleep up there, my child until the day appears,
The dark night is man's enemy!
He rides past a pond,
As a beautiful pale girl stands there
And sings, her blouse flutters in the wind:
Ride on, ride on, I shudder to think of the child!
He rides past a river,
There a merman greets him.
Then he dives down with a roar,
And silence settled around the cold house.
When day and night engage in battle
Already the cocks crow in the distant villages,
There his horse shakes and rakes at the ground,
He scratches and sniffs his own grave.
Erlkönig, D. 328 – Franz Schubert
Who rides, so late, through night and wind?
It is the father with his child.
He has the boy well in his arm
He holds him safely, he keeps him warm.
"My son, why do you hide your face so anxiously?"
"Father, do you not see the Elfking?
The Elfking with crown and tail?"
"My son, it's a wisp of fog."
"You dear child, come, go with me!
Very lovely games I'll play with you;
Some colourful flowers are on the beach,
My mother has some golden robes."
"My father, my father, and don't you hear
What the Elfking quietly promises me?"
"Be calm, stay calm, my child;
The wind is rustling through dry leaves."
"Do you want to come with me, pretty boy?
My daughters shall wait on you finely;
My daughters will lead the nightly dance,
And rock and dance and sing you to sleep."
"My father, my father, and don't you see there
The Elfking's daughters in the gloomy place?"
"My son, my son, I see it clearly:
There shimmer the old willows so grey."
"I love you, your beautiful form entices me;
And if you're not willing, then I will use force."
"My father, my father, he's grabbing me now!
The Elfking has done me harm!"
It horrifies the father; he swiftly rides on,
He holds the moaning child in his arms,
Reaches the farm with trouble and hardship;
In his arms, the child was dead
DREAMS & VISIONS
France’s poetry was driven by symbolism, and this aesthetic allowed French composers to use Art Song to examine the ambiguous world of dreams in an unparalleled way. Debussy creates a magnificent shimmering impression of a starry night with the opening piano chords of Nuit d’étoiles (Night of Stars). The poem by Théodore Banville is arranged so the first verse is a refrain sung three times; the melody remains the same, but the piano accompaniment and dynamics change to create a dreamier mood for each repetition. Debussy selected two other stanzas from the poem and set them with episodic music that swirls through many key centers before settling into the restatement of the first theme. Dans la fôret du charme et de l’enchantement (In the Forest of Charm and Enchantment) is a melancholy poem that expresses the desire to return to a dream in which friendly fairies and gnomes inhabit a forest. Chausson used quick overlapping piano figures associated with impressionistic music to create a mystical atmosphere. The vocal line features long melodies with extended high notes, showing the influence that Wagner had on Chausson’s music. The text for Aprés un rêve (After a Dream) is based off of a Tuscan poem by an anonymous poet. The poem was translated by Romain Bussine, who took great liberties to make it French in style as well as language. Fauré paid homage to the poetry’s roots, giving the singer swelling operatic lines over repeated chord patterns in the piano, resembling an Italian aria.
Nuit d’étoiles, L. 4 – Claude Debussy
Starry night, beneath your pinions,
beneath your breeze and your perfumes,
Sad lyre, softly sighing,
I dream of a love long past.
Serene melancholy emerges
From the depths of my heart.
And I hear the soul of my darling,
Quivering in the dreamy wood.
At our fountain I see
your blue eyes like the sky;
This rose, it is your breath,
And these fair stars they are your eyes.
Dans la forêt du charme et de l'enchantement, Op. 36, No. 2 – Ernest Chausson
Under your dark tresses, little fairies,
you sang very sweetly on my path
in the forest of charm and enchantment,
in the forest of charm and magical rites,
sympathetic gnomes, while I slept,
from your hands, good gnomes, you offered me
a gold sceptre, alas, while I slept!
I have known since that time that it is mirage and delusion,
gold sceptres and songs in the forest;
nonetheless like a credulous child, I weep for them
and I would like to sleep again in the forest,
what does it matter if I know that it is mirage and delusion?
Après un rêve, Op. 7, No. 1 – Gabriel Fauré
In a sleep charmed by your image,
I dreamed of happiness, burning mirage.
Your eyes were milder, your voice pure and ringing,
You shone like a sky lit by the aurora;
You called to me and I left the earth
To flee with you toward the light.
The heavens opened their clouds for us,
Unknown splendors, divine glimmers met us,
Alas! Alas! Sad awakening from dreams...
I demand of you, night, give back to me your lies,
Return, return in radiance,
Return, mysterious night!
Clint Borzoni’s music reflects his passion for lyricism and functional harmony. He has written over sixty pieces, including a full length opera, two one act operas, a piano concerto, percussion quartet, piece for orchestra, two string quartets, several works for chamber orchestra, and many art songs. Among Borzoni’s honors are the Morton Feldman Award, the Maurice Liberman music scholarship, and world premieres by the New York Youth Symphony and the Mannes School of Music’s Percussion Ensemble. He received a B.A. and M.A. in Music Composition from CUNY where he studied with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Del Tredici. Will There Really Be A Morning exploits the lowest register of the piano to suggest the sun just below the horizon. The vocal line brings out Emily Dickenson’s cautiously hopeful poetry with large swells in dynamics that give way to sudden pianissimo high notes. The tumultuous piano solo that opens Crepuscule du Matin sets the tortured mood of Amy Lowell’s poetry about dreaming of a lost love, only to wake and find them still gone. The dream section of the poem grows more and more frenzied and passionate, until a birdsong interrupts the dream; here the song gives way to sparse piano music and quietly plaintive singing. Oscar Wilde’s poem, Impression: Le Reveillon, is a portrait of dawn, dense with imagery. Borzoni paints the tranquil atmosphere with widely spaced chords in the piano that change slowly and subtly. The beginning of the song is like a recitative, with very little rhythmic impulse, but as the sun begins to rise in the poem, the music begins a pulsing figure which builds in intensity toward a climactic ending as the rays of the sun shine on more and more of the landscape. To Morning is a beautiful poem by William Blake that pays stylistic homage to classical English dedication poems. The timeless style of this poem is musically accentuated through a hymn-like opening as well as baroque-influenced music that features coloratura and trills. Borzoni’s setting also shows modern influences with impressionistic piano arpeggios and highly chromatic passages. The final section of the song is a restatement of the opening line of the poem, set with high lyric vocal lines and a powerful soloistic piano part, providing a satisfying and triumphant conclusion.