La Scena Musicale

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Next Great Art Song - Helen Pridmore's Favourite Art Song


Our next submission is by Dr. Helen Pridmore:

Thank you for inviting me to join in the "Great Art Song" survey.  Here are three of my favourite art songs:

1. "The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs", by John Cage.  Using an evocative text by the great Irish writer James Joyce, this brilliant little song exploits the sonic capabilities of the piano, balanced with a beautiful folk-song like vocal line.  The piece is deceptively difficult:  it looks easy enough, but it is challenging to coordinate the parts, and create the acoustic balance required.  I recommend this song highly, its effect is enigmatic and memorable.


2. "On a Rainy Night" from Five Lyrics of the T'Ang Dynasty by Canada's own John Beckwith.  Beckwith's song cycle really stands the test of time:  it is widely performed in Canada and beyond, and begins to have the status of "classic" songs, like Mozart, Schubert and other, older composers.  "On a Rainy Night" is a highlight of the cycle.  Its simple yet moving piano accompaniment evokes the sound of the rain (think of Chopin's "Raindrop" Prelude Op. 28 no. 15).  The vocal line highlights the melancholy text beautifully, evoking memories and longing.  

3. "Frühlingsglaube" D. 686 by Franz Schubert.  It's very hard to choose just one of Schubert's Lieder, as so many of them are so remarkable, so perfect, so memorable.  But this song is special:  its wonderful blending of the harmonies between the voice and piano, the hint of melancholy in both parts, the pairing of that melancholy with the beautiful, heart-rending little poem about spring, and love -- it's a perfect song.  Not to mention the cross rhythms, the slight syncopation, like a breath, at the words "Nun muss sich allen wenden" ("Now everything must change").

Submit your vote at www.nextgreatartsong.com.

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