CARNEGIE HALL PRESENTS

Performance Monday, January 16, 2012 | 5:30 PM

The Song Continues... Duo Recital

Weill Recital Hall
Two young singers from Marilyn Horne’s Song Continues …, soprano Megan Hart and baritone Elliot Madore, team up in a recital that showcases their emerging vocal artistry.
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The Program

GUSTAV MAHLER
Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen

Mahler began the long, drawn-out process of fashioning and refining the four songs of his first song cycle Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen in 1883, when he was a young conductor in Kassel, Germany. He probably acquired a new edition of the early 19th-century folk poetry collection Des Knaben Wunderhorn when he moved to Kassel and fell in love with the singer Johanna Richter in 1883. She broke off the relationship a year later, and the songs’ emotion may have been derived from the composer’s personal experience.

At the start of “Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit macht,” we hear a wedding dance with mocking overtones in the piano; the dance music becomes funereal when the sad singer takes it up. The blue flowers—one of the prime emblems of Romanticism—and the birds sing of Nature’s beauty, but the persona will have none of it. “Ging heut’ morgen übers Feld” would later give rise to the first movement of Mahler’s Second Symphony; here again, Nature offers its beauty to the fatalistic persona who, in the final passage, rejects all such blandishments.

The third song, “Ich hab’ ein glühend Messer,” is the most vehement of the four. The eerie moment of calm at the words “Wenn ich im gelben Felde geh’” incites the final passionate outburst before the music descends by degrees into a pit of despair. In the last song, “Die zwei blauen Augen,” Mahler recycles the metonymic image of the sweetheart’s eyes and the lovers’ linden tree from Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin.


—Susan Youens

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

FRANZ LISZT
“Die Loreley”; “Oh! quand je dors”; “O lieb, so lang du lieben kannst”; “Mignon’s Lied”

“My orphaned songs,” Franz Liszt once called his repertory of art songs while expressing the hope that singers might take these works under their wings. A collaborator with some of Europe’s best singers—including French tenor Adolphe Nourrit and husband-wife duo Feodor and Rosa von Milde—Liszt used song as a laboratory in which to experiment with “music of the future.”

Die Loreley” was a mythical figure invented in the early-19th century by Romantic writer Clemens Brentano. A descendant of Homer’s sirens, this golden-haired archetype of female eroticism sits atop a rocky promontory on the Rhine River and lures sailors to shipwreck with her beautiful singing. The poet Heinrich Heine would subsequently write a poem about her—Liszt was so entranced by the text that he set it to music five times.

The worshipful lover who speaks in Victor Hugo’s “Oh! quand je dors” begs his beloved to appear to him as Laura once did to Petrarch, the 14th-century creator of some of the world’s most profound love poetry. Liszt sets these ardent words in one of his most lyrical songs; the singer’s last phrase draws us upward into paradise.

Some will recognize the similarities between the mellifluous “O lieb, so lang du lieben kannst” and the popular solo piano work, “Liebesträume, No. 3,” S. 541. The song is set to a poem by Ferdinand Freiligrath, who was famous in the 1840s for his rabble-rousing political verse.

The character Mignon in Goethe’s novel Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre was kidnapped from her native Italy by a troupe of traveling acrobats and subsequently rescued by the title character Wilhelm, with whom she falls in love. In “Mignon’s Lied,” Goethe tells us that she sings with “a certain solemn grandeur, as if ... she were imparting something of importance.” Liszt imbues his setting with all the passionate intensity of late Romantic music.


—Susan Youens

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

FRANCIS POULENC
Banalités

Francis Poulenc first met Guillaume Apollinaire in late 1916; the composer, however, had already been fascinated with the great avant-garde poet’s verse for several years. In 1950, the composer told an interviewer, “I find myself able to compose music only to poetry with which I feel total contact—a contact transcending mere admiration. This quality is one I felt for the first time when I encountered the poems of Guillaume Apollinaire. That was in 1912, when I was 13.” The poet died in the great flu pandemic of 1918 when Poulenc was still a teenager, but his importance in Poulenc’s life can hardly be overstated: By 1954, the composer had set 34 songs to Apollinaire’s poetry. 

Written in 1940, this wartime set of five songs was composed shortly after Poulenc was demobilized as the result of the disgraceful treaty between Philippe Pétain (France’s head of state) and Adolf Hitler. Banalités is one of Poulenc’s most popular works; we encounter him in five different, but very characteristic moods.

Chanson d’Orkenise” is a mock folksong; nevertheless, it is filled with sophisticated nuances. The song is about a wanderer and a wagon driver—the former leaves his heart behind in the fictional town of Orkenise and the latter is bringing his heart there.

Hôtel” is a musical display of utter languor. The song evokes the image of lying alone in a hotel room in a state of complete torpor, smoking a pungent French cigarette.

Apollinaire’s “Fagnes de Wallonie” features an intrinsic musicality in the poem’s blend of sounds and rhythms: “Nord / Nord / La vie s’y tord / En arbres forts / Et tors / La vie y mord / La mort / À belles dents / Quand bruit le vent.” Poulenc designs music to carry and flow around these verbal melodies.

The whirlwind of a waltz-song “Voyage à Paris” captures Poulenc’s undiluted joy upon returning to the city he loved most. “For me,” he wrote, “Paris often brings tears to my eyes and music to my ears.” Poulenc and French baritone Pierre Bernac often performed this song as a mildly malicious encore at the end of recitals.

In contrast to the madcap Parisian gaiety, “Sanglots” features Poulenc’s philosophical voice, appropriate for Apollinaire’s brooding reflection on tragic love. The poet reflects on how people throughout the ages and from all corners of the earth have suffered and died for love, from Ultima Thule (a mythical island in the North Sea) to Ophir (a fabled ancient region celebrated for its gold and gems). We, in turn, become like the dead who endured this pain before us. If these reflections are not comforting, they are beautiful when dressed in such poignant musical garb.


—Susan Youens

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

The Song Continues… is supported by The Herman Lissner Foundation.
Professional Training Workshops are made possible, in part, by Mr. and Mrs. Nicola Bulgari and The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.
This program is part of the Marilyn Horne legacy at Carnegie Hall.

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