At a Glance
This evening's program begins with three gems of song by three 19th-century bel canto ("beautiful singing") opera composers: Gioachino Rossini, Vincenzo Bellini, and Saverio Mercadante. In another group of three songs, we hear Gabriel Fauré, one of the greatest masters of late-19th century French mélodie.
The four songs of Richard Strauss's Op. 27—offered to his new bride, soprano Pauline de Ahna, on their wedding day in 1894—begin with the search for inner peace in the first song, followed by extroverted exuberance of love in No. 2, seduction amidst the crowd in No. 3, and the deeply personal emotion of the final song.
After Italy, France, and Germany, our performers next take us to Spain to hear settings of Spanish poet-philosopher Ramón de Campoamor by Joaquín Turina. The "Dedication" to the cycle is for piano solo, followed by four songs that both encapsulate several different flavors of Spanish nationalism and hint at Turina's experiences in France, where he studied composition and piano.
Two 18th-century opera arias follow, one from Handel's Alcina and the other from Vicente Martín y Soler's Una cosa rara (A Rare Thing), hugely popular in its own day but known thereafter mostly from Mozart's cheeky invocation of it in Don Giovanni.
Tonight's program includes the world premiere of a cycle by Iain Bell, a young British composer. For three plaintive songs, we are transported back to the carnage of World War I, during which the poet Will Streets died.
We finally end with two groups of songs by American composers: the spare, sophisticated idiom of composer-critic Virgil Thomson and the 1890s dispenser of charming miniatures, Ethelbert Nevin.