A Recital Anthology (High/Low Voice) – performance notes

Performance notes

A RECITAL ANTHOLOGY — 22 art songs for diploma-level performance
Compiled by Luise Horrocks

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Consolati e spera!
/ Domenico Scarlatti
(Page 3)

Domenico Scarlatti (1685–1757), born in the same year as Bach and Handel, was the son of the renowned composer, Alessandro Scarlatti. He is best known for the hundreds of keyboard pieces he wrote in later life having moved to Spain from his native Italy. Whilst still living in Rome though he also composed operas, including Iphigenia in Tauri (1713), from which the aria ‘Consolati e spera!’ is taken. The complete score of the opera has been lost but this aria survived and the text is one of persuasive optimism, with the singer offering consolation and encouragement to believe that even the worst predicament can change for the better.

The edition here is by the Italian composer and arranger, Alessandro Parisotti (1853–1913) who was instrumental in rediscovering arias from the Baroque era and publishing them for a 19th-century audience. In editing them he brought them into line with the tastes of the day, altering word placement and choral structures, adding fully harmonised piano accompaniments and his own performance directions. So, whilst the multiple markings of tempi and dynamics are not always authentically Baroque, they nevertheless bring out the dramatic nuances of the writing and, as this is an operatic aria, they help the singer to communicate a keen sense of the underlying emotion of the text.

Dynamic contour is used throughout to enhance expression. The opening two statements are coloured by an ‘echo’ effect often used in Baroque performance. Much poise and space are needed from the start to establish the mood and these two statements must not feel rushed. As the energy increases the phrases build and the highest notes need plenty of upper resonance without excessive vibrato. Tuning in bars 20–23 needs care with all notes fully centred. The ornaments in bars 24 and 33 should be light, neat and fully integrated into the lines without disturbing their contour.

The middle section has a brighter feel and the contrast into this section can be highlighted with more ‘lift’ coming from the rising piano figurations. Tone though should still be focused and clear with clean articulation, especially in bars 41, 43 and 55.

The return to the opening material at bar 56 allows the singer to recall the emotion from the beginning but to add some variation. Instead of the ‘echo’ effect, the markings now suggest the opposite with the p followed by the f. There is also an additional ornament written out in bar 79. In the Baroque era a singer may well have added further ornaments in this section of the aria, and judicious invention could be included in a performance. Bar 88 contains a small cadenza-like passage and should be delivered with accuracy and aplomb. However, this does not mark the end of the aria and so the singer should stay fully engaged as the piano plays through bars 89–93. The final statement in bars 93–94 needs very careful placement and initiation of notes with a beautifully warm yet delicate tonal colour. The fermata should be well sustained so that the aria closes with an assured sense of completeness.

Ach neige, du Schmerzenreiche
 / Bettine von Arnim 
(Page 10)

Bettine von Arnim (1785–1859) studied voice, piano and improvisation and was both a composer and a writer. Married to the Romantic poet, Achim von Arnim, she counted amongst her closest friends Ludwig van Beethoven and the famous German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. She contributed to collecting the folk songs that made up the collaborative work Des Knaben Wunderhorn.

The text of ‘Ach neige, du Schmerzenreiche’ comes from Goethe’s Faust, a seminal work of the early 19th century in German literature. The first part of the story outlines the feelings of despair that the magician Faust experiences, his pact with Mephistopheles when he gives up his soul to the devil in exchange for unlimited knowledge and his love for Gretchen. The words that von Armin sets are full of passion and anguish, expressing an outpouring of grief and suffering and any performance requires fine communication of this heightened state of emotion.

The song is almost episodic in form, marked by changing tempi, tonalities and different accompanying textures. The singer needs to consider how to bring unity to the whole so that the musical journey fully reflects the drama of the unfolding emotion. There are no dynamic markings in the score either for the singer or the pianist so judging how to grade the phrases to enhance expression needs thought. The extensive vocal range covered in the song along with some wide rising intervals is a technical challenge that calls for even integration across the registers and careful intonation.

4The opening needs thoughtful preparation and a confident sense of inner tempo, so that the voice and piano cohere immediately after the unaccompanied upbeat quavers. Moving into the lower register at bar 11 could allow for the use of some different tonal colour to emphasise the moment of heightened tension at the fermata. The energy then intensifies at the piano moves into triplet quavers and the voice takes over this motif, moving ever higher in the range to the climatic notes in bar 18. Further movement is added with the rippling semiquavers that follow in the accompaniment but there should be no sense of rushing. The contrast into the moment of repose at bar 26 (marked ‘Recit.’) provides the singer with an opportunity for heightened expression, leading on from a considered pause in bar 25. The closing passages bear a resemblance to the opening and the final bars should not sound too abrupt as they bring the song to a close.

The singer needs wonderful clarity of diction throughout to portray the poetic depth of the text whilst retaining propulsion and momentum through the lines.

 / Vincenzo Bellini
(Page  15)

Vincenzo Bellini (1801–1835) was born into a musical family in Sicily. His formal studies were undertaken in Naples at the Royal College of Music of San Sebastian with the composer Nicola Zingarelli amongst others and Bellini’s first operatic composition was performed by students at the college. He went on to write ten more operas, establishing himself as an internationally acclaimed operatic composer. He wrote in the bel canto (‘beautiful singing’) style of the early 19th century, a style that is now very much associated with Italian opera of this period. Important to this style of singing was the beauty of the vocal sound with exact control of the intensity of the tone along with agility, clarity and careful enunciation of the words.

‘L’abbandono’ comes from a collection of fifteen songs called Composizioni da camera, literally ‘compositions for the room’ or chamber music, composed for voice with piano accompaniment. The texts are by anonymous poets and all the songs are about love and the longing for love. Probably composed in the 1820s, the songs are less demanding on the singer than Bellini’s powerful operatic arias but they nevertheless call on the traditions of bel canto and contain many theatrical and dramatic elements.

The song opens with a piano introduction that sets up a mood of disquiet before the singer enters with a recitative-like passage, which offers an opportunity — through choice of tempo and word painting — to further the emotional import and communicate the ‘sighing’ of the breeze. There is an important moment of silence in bar 20 before the main body of the song starts. Care needs to be taken with the placing of the descending octave here, retaining beauty of tone across the vocal registers. The grace notes in bar 33 also require care so as to retain absolute clarity. As the vocal line moves higher in pitch, some judicious use of vowel modification may be needed to ensure that tone remains both full and free.

Throughout the body of the song there are changes of tempo indicated and the singer will want to make these as expressive as possible without losing the overall cohesion of the writing. Likewise there are dynamic indications in the accompaniment, which the singer may wish to follow with some sharp contrasts in bars 76–77 and bars 98–101.

The accompaniment to this song, though supportive, does not really carry the emotional intensity of the music and so it is up to the singer to convey the mood with thoughtful characterisation, similar to that requisite in an operatic aria. Overall though, this song should retain a sense of intimacy and not be forced. Clear enunciation of the Italian words with neat elisions and open vowels, produced without restriction, will help with the immediacy of the communication.

 / Clara Schumann
(Page 22)

Clara Schumann (1819–1896) was a talented pianist and composer who came from a musical family. Her works have rather been overshadowed by those of her famous husband Robert Schumann and indeed she herself thought that a woman ‘must not desire to compose’ giving up composing at the age of 36. Nevertheless she did write 28 lieder, most of them between 1840 and 1854, and of which 18 were published. Clara had very strong feelings about the importance of text and the accompaniments of her songs are often challenging, reflecting her own virtuosity as a pianist.

Written in 1843, ‘Lorelei’ is on a text by Heinrich Heine whose poems were also set to music by Franz Schubert, Felix Mendelssohn, Johannes Brahms and Richard Strauss amongst others. Lorelei is actually a rock on the banks of the river Rhine but Heine, taking up an idea from the writings of Brentano, gave the name to beautiful siren who, sitting on the cliff combing her hair and singing, distracts and beguiles the sailors on the river so that they crash amongst the rocks and drown.

From the very beginning of the song a mood of foreboding is established with the insistently throbbing quavers in the accompaniment. The tempo chosen needs thought and, as there is no piano introduction, the singer needs to have established the mood and be completely at one with the accompanist to ensure a cohesive and dramatic start. Although marked p at the opening, the continuous movement and depth of the accompaniment require the singer to project with full, though not brash tone, enriched by controlled vibrato and a real sense of intensity.

As the song moves into the major key, the texture of the piano part from bar 20 changes, with flowing triplet figurations rising between the hands. The sense of the water of the river is evoked and the singer then introduces the figure of ‘Die schönste Jungfrau’ (‘the beautiful maiden’) in bar 25. A beautiful and alluring tonal palette will suggest her seductive nature during this section, with careful observation of the dynamic markings to shape the phrases. As the piano writing implies the rise and fall of the waves, sometimes sitting above the singer in pitch, clarity and projection should be retained.

A return to the ominous repeated piano quavers from bar 36 brings the singer to a part of the song that lies relatively low in the voice, and darker colour could be employed with strong initiation of the consonants to give the accents a percussive effect. Attention needs to be paid though, to ensure that the almost unexpected shift upwards through the leaping octave interval from bar 47 into bar 48 is well prepared.

In the final passages, tuning requires special care. Repeated notes, such as those in bar 51, need to stay buoyant in pitch through the changing vowels and consonants as the volume is increased. In bar 55 the repeated notes are now marked p but must still retain support and even colour. Energy and drive are required as the height of the song is reached in bar 61, before exact placing of the descending semitones, which mark the sinking of the hapless sailor’s boat beneath the waves.

This is a highly dramatic song in which singer and pianist both contribute in equal measure to the telling of the story.

Le mariage des roses
 / César Franck
(Page 30)

César Franck (1822–1890) was born in Liège (now in modern-day Belgium), but spent his adult life in Paris, France. He was a composer, pianist and organist and was renowned for his gift of improvisation and for his enormous influence as a teacher and mentor. He wrote comparatively few songs, focusing more on instrumental chamber music.

The words of ‘Le marriage des roses’ by the priest, Eugene David, are a celebration of love and a plea to the beloved to love as the roses and the swallows love, for life is short. Franck opens the song with a delicate rippling arpeggiated motif from the piano and the singer needs equal delicacy and grace entering in bar 6. The marking is dolce and a sweetness and brightness of tone is needed. As the phrases unfold over the continual movement in the accompaniment they should remain rhythmical but the beats should not be stressed or intrude into an even and smooth legato line which arcs above the piano. Liaisons, elisions and nasal consonants should also be seamlessly incorporated in the fluid phrasing whilst ensuring absolute clarity of diction.

The second section of the song stays a tempo but the feeling changes as the piano moves into block chords and the singer takes on more responsibility for the momentum of the song. The long crescendo through bars 31–34 needs to open out into a resonant but not explosive f in bar 35 with the poco rall. judged to allow an easy transition into the reprise of the opening as the piano begins the third section of the song. Once again this is marked dolce and this tonal colour continues into the final section of the song. The closing poco rall. could be stretched slightly to allow for an appropriate sense of completion to the whole.

Breathing throughout the song should never be intrusive, with silent inhalation and careful initiation of notes allowing the elegance of the writing to shine through. The longer phrases will be underpinned by controlled pressure but the whole should seem as if it is effortless and transparent.

The Bird’s Story (Eine Vogelweise)
 / Frederick Delius
(Page 36)

Frederick Delius (1862–1934) was born into a musical family in Bradford, England. He first learnt the violin and whilst he never received much formal training in composition, he went on to write in many different genres. Although he was English by birth, his parents originally came from Germany and during his life he lived in America, Germany, Norway and France and his music reflects these cosmopolitan influences. He wrote nearly sixty solo songs but of these, fewer than 20 are to English texts.

The Bird’s story comes from the set Seven Songs from the Norwegian, composed between 1889 and 1890 for voice and piano and later orchestrated by Delius in 1908. Although he was a fluent Norwegian speaker, these settings were actually made to German translations of the Norwegian texts and from these, further translations were then made into English. These meant that the songs reached a wider audience and today they are most often heard sung in English.

The text of this song takes a feeling of nostalgia for lost love and sets this into the context of bird song. Two lovers take a woodland walk in spring but ‘a rainbow coloured’ future is rejected and the lovers part from one another. The blackbird that has sung of their happiness now takes on a mocking refrain and turns their story into a ‘roundelay’ (a simple song). All the birds take up this song, kindling a feeling of sadness in the deserted lover.

There is an almost jaunty air to the opening of the song capturing the mood of expectant happiness. Delius’s use of harmony and changing tonality, though, already contains within it a slight sense of unease and the piano accompaniment throughout is used to illustrate the unfolding story. From bar 17, the change to rippling semiquavers suggests the ‘west wind’ and from bar 28 the high-lying triplet motifs convey the song of the blackbird. The mordents that appear from bar 42 have an almost impudent feel echoing the mocking of the bird. The block chords in the piano interlude in bars 53–56 add a more solemn and reflective moment to the song conjuring up the lover’s feeling of loss.

With such an expressive piano accompaniment the singer will need to consider how to use the voice to add to the effects. The choice of opening tempo requires thought so that there is buoyancy but no hint of rushing. The long phrases of the first section of the song should flow easily with the highest points of each tonally integrated without strain. Tuning too needs care as the harmony shifts. The graded dynamic markings should be fully exploited as they carefully match the words. So, for example, in bar 12 the pp conveys a secretive atmosphere. The build through to the f in bar 37 should be managed with full tone to contrast with the sadness suggested by the p in bar 48.

Clarity of diction is required throughout as storytelling is paramount in this song. Particular care is needed with the articulation of the semiquavers in bars 72 and 74. At the ff in bar 78, tonal strength should not be achieved at the expense of word definition and any vowel modification on higher notes should be made with discretion.

Overall this song requires thoughtful stage presence and attention to the narrative to communicate the nuances of the unfolding musical and textual journey.

Siehst du, wie in der Ferne
 / Luise Greger
(Page 46)

Luise Greger (1862–1944) began piano lessons at the age of 5 and was composing by the age of 11. Amongst her musical output were over 100 songs. Her works have largely been neglected but there are echoes of both Franz Schubert and Hugo Wolf in her lieder and Richard Strauss is reputed to have honoured her by calling her a ‘composer’.

The text of ‘Siehst du, wie in der ferne’ suggests the longing to undertake a journey, summoned by the natural beauties of a distant land. Whilst the journey conjured up is real, there is also a feeling that this might be a spiritual journey, moving from the troubles or ‘thorns’ of life, into a more exciting existence.

There is no piano introduction at the start of the song and so the singer needs care to prepare the onset of the first note so that it aligns neatly with the spread chord in the accompaniment. Depending on the tempo of the Andante chosen, the phrase lengths are quite demanding of the breath in the opening section and the natural arc of each is indicated with the crescendo and diminuendo markings. These should be followed but not exaggerated. Tuning also needs consideration as the tonal landscape shifts. The long diminuendo in bars 13–16 takes control as does placing the final descending 6th with a beautiful pp colour into the fermata.

The chordal accompaniment from the opening is then replaced by more rhythmically energised figurations in the piano but the marking Sehr langsam and leise (‘very slow and light’) along with the pp directs the singer to husband the energy before the piano picks up the tempo at Etwas belebter (‘somewhat busier’). The accompaniment then relaxes through the rit. in bar 24 bringing the singer back into another brief section recalling the opening material. The fermata at the end of bar 31 needs to allow a moment of repose before the suddenness of the entry in bar 32.

At this point the music is marked Lebhaft und innig (‘lively and heartfelt’) and there should be a feeling of urgency conveyed. The singer has to come in on a high f note and considered onset is vital to give power and depth without unwarranted harshness. The use of the consonant on the word ‘Komm’ will give crispness but should not inhibit the shaping of the vowel. Very quickly the moment of drama passes and another fermata marks the change into the section marked Sanft and zartlich (‘sweetly and gently’). This in turn quickly moves to the climactic moments of the song with a return to the original tempo and chordal accompaniment. The singer is once again required to enter on a high f note into a phrase that builds through to a held ff note. This requires much anchoring and space to resonate. Something should also be saved for the closing notes; marked with the instruction Jauchzend (‘jubilantly’), there needs to be a freedom and warmth in the tone here to communicate the final moment of excitement and anticipation.

The singer will want to ensure that the constantly changing requirements of the composer coalesce into a unified whole, with a range of tonal colours and a strong sense of the emotional journey, through the musical writing that mirrors the text so explicitly.

Elegia eterna
 / Enrique Granados
(Page 50)

Enrique Granados (1867–1916) was born in Lieida, Spain and studied composition in Barcelona with Felipe Pedrell who was considered an initiator in the revival of Spanish nationalism in music. From 1887 Granados spent two years in Paris studying piano before moving back to Spain where he established a dual career as a pianist and a composer. From the early influence of Pedrell, Granados, along with his fellow Spaniard, Isaac Albéniz, helped to further the spirit of Spanish nationalism, basing much of his composition on Spanish and Catalan folk idioms.

Written in 1912, ‘Elegia eterna’ is one of three concert songs with words in Catalan. The text is by Apeles Mestres who wrote almost exclusively in Catalan. He was both a writer and an illustrator who was attracted to themes relating to nature and the personification of nature. ‘Elegia eterna’ is a song of unrequited love as the butterfly, the rose, the breeze and the mist experience the pain of languishing for love. At the close the butterfly comes to rest and finally dies.

An elegia or elegy is a poem of lament and mourning for the death of an individual. The spread minor chord at the start of ‘Elegia eterna’ immediately sets the sorrowful nature of the song, sustaining the tonality as the singer enters with the first vocal phrase. This opening section uses the piano sparingly giving the singer much freedom to bend the vocal lines rhythmically, almost in the fashion of an operatic recitative. Nothing here though should sound hurried with the phrases given plenty of space underpinned by firm anchoring and well managed breath control. The doleful mood should be conveyed without overindulgence, however. In bar 9 the piano imitates the voice, briefly underscoring the slight upturn in mood with the use of the dominant major chord.

With the move into f at the end bar 10 a moment of drama in injected but the marking of doloroso indicates that the overriding sense of sadness should not be dissipated. Freedom for the singer continues and the cadence of the words should dictate the shaping of each phrase.

The ‘chorus’ that follows is in the manner of a vocalise with written-out ornaments. The vowel sound should stay consistent across the whole range of the line, with open tone at the height of the phrase and neatly articulated and clean descending semiquaver triplets. Sustained beauty will inform the last part of this section with the natural arc of the musical line given due consideration.

The second part of the song repeats the first half and thought needs to be given how to sustain the emotion. The dynamic gradation in bars 42–51 differs slightly from the equivalent bars in the preceding section so this could be exploited to add variety. Expressive freedom with the pulse could also add subtle change. The closing vocalise finishes the song with an extended phrase and the raised leading notes should be very bright in colour. The final notes can be drawn out with the fermata at the end given much length to draw the song to a sense of completeness.

/ Ottorino Respighi
(Page 56)

Ottorino Respighi (1879–1936) was an Italian violinist, composer and musicologist who spent time studying with Rimsky‑Korsakov in St Petersburg. Alongside the Russian influence that comes through in the colours of his orchestral writing, he had an affinity for ‘programme music’ and was also inspired by Impressionism whilst retaining an interest in old Italian music.

‘Crepuscolo comes’ from a collection of five songs under the title Dieta Silvane (‘Woodland Deities’) with words by the Italian poet and illustrator, Antonio Rubino. They show Respighi’s interest in the evocation of ancient mythologies and in the final song of the set, ‘Crepuscolo’ (‘Twilight’), the lengthening shadows of the day are filled with sadness in the knowledge that the God of the Earth has grown old and barren.

The piano accompaniment employs many different colours and is the changing backdrop for a vocal line than demands full and free tone and expression. At the opening the undulating septuplets from the piano set up a mood of gentle movement almost suggestive of the breathing of the sleeping figure of Pan. The singer should aim for beautiful warmth of sound that is still gentle and very smooth yet sounds effortless, taking great care with the elisions in bar 6. The transition from bar 14 requires care so that the appearance of ‘Pan’ can be highlighted by careful placement on the first beat of bar 15. This marks the change into the next section of the song where dotted motifs in the accompaniment and tempo and metre variations all increase the energy and urgency of the song. Line in still very important for the singer here but rhythm comes to the forefront; control of the figures in bars 31–35 in particular needs care to ensure complete cohesion with the accompaniment.

Bars 38–42 represent the climax of the song with waves of sweeping dynamic colour in the piano supporting the voice in a dramatic invocation of the God of the Earth. Tone here needs real depth with judicious vibrato and core strength. Bars 44–47 subside into quasi-recitative and care should be taken to keep projection crisp and flexible with very clearly articulated words.

With the death of the day the song returns to the mood of the opening with the septuplets once again appearing in the piano. There is a darkness and sense of mourning though, which should be communicated with subtle, gentle colour before the piano finishes with a brief injection of energy reprising the earlier dotted figures.

Mantle of Blue
 / Frank Bridge
(Page 64)

Frank Bridge (1879–1941) studied composition with Charles Villiers Stanford at the Royal College of Music, though this conservative background did not prevent him from becoming a more radical musician from the 1920s when he embraced Modernism. Primarily known for his instrumental works he nevertheless composed more than 50 songs, mostly in the years before 1914.

The words of ‘Mantle of Blue’ are by the Irish poet, Padraic Colum and are a lullaby, though one with a somewhat ambiguous meaning. It could be taken that the male labourers are returning in the evening from their work in the fields to find a baby being lulled asleep in its mother’s arms. However, Colum was a Roman Catholic and there are clearly Christian religious overtones to the words with the mother being called Mary and wearing a blue mantle or cloak, blue being the colour associated with the Virgin mother. There is also the suggestion that the men from the fields could be the shepherds visiting the baby Jesus at his birth. There is even more uncertainty created by the words, ‘Mavourneen [my beloved] is going from me and from you’. This ‘going’ could be the journey of the baby from life to death or a presage of the eventual turn that Christ’s life would take.

Bridge matches this ambiguity in his musical setting of the poem. Throughout in the piano accompaniment there is much use of a re-sounding pedal with an internal off-beat pedal above it, often at the 5th or the octave. These open chords allow for an ambivalence of tonality and this is further enhanced by the chromatically shifting harmonies, which give a modal feel to the music at times. Passing dissonance builds and releases tension and the insistent use of the off beat rhythmic pattern creates a slightly disturbed and brooding emotion adding intensity and depth to the song. 

The singer needs to have an understanding of the sound world created by the piano writing and, above this, should maintain a delicate yet resonant legato line. The long held notes in bars 8–9, 13–14, 19–20 and at the close should be given their full value. As they come at the ends of phases, plenty of support is required to ensure that they remain even though with a subtle tapering as they reach their conclusion. The dynamic compass across the piece rarely goes beyondso any crescendos should be sensitively shaped. Projection though is essential particularly as the textures in the accompaniment thicken towards the end of the song.

The last phrase is marked dolcissimo and, as the voice moves into he higher notes ‘sweetness’ of tone should not be compromised, requiring the singer to produce notes without throat closure or unwanted tension. The phrase is long and it may require a breath before ‘of blue’. If this is added it should be discreet and inhalation should be silent so as not to disturb the forward pull of the line into the final note.

In performance, thought could be given as to how long the piano holds the very last chord. The evocative atmosphere created can be extended with a moment of stillness as the notes die away.

Und gestern hat er mir Rosen gebracht
 / Joseph Marx 
(Page 67)

Joseph Marx (1882–1964) was a mostly self taught pianist, cellist, composer and theorist who, largely through his work as a critic, was highly influential in shaping Austrian musical taste. He wrote the majority of his 158 songs between 1908 and 1912, when Vienna held a prominent position in the musical world and diverse elements of the trends of Romanticism, Impressionism and Expressionism can be found in his compositions.

The text of ‘Und gestern hat er mir Rosen gebracht’ is written from a female perspective and there is a sense of excitement, anticipation and longing that builds through the poetry. Marx captures these emotions in a through-composed song with expansive, wide-ranging and melodic vocal lines which are underpinned by an energised 6/8 metre.

The piano introduction immediately sets up the dotted-rhythm motif that gives the song its feeling of impetus and momentum, yet Marx’s instruction regarding tempo, Ziemlich rasch, doch nicht eilen (‘moderately quick yet not hurrying’), should be observed. The singer’s lines, whilst also incorporating dotted rhythms, are more flowing and legato; smooth transition across the wide intervals is called for in the opening bars. The piano part lies above the singer in pitch at the start, but balance should be maintained with careful thought as to the dynamic level so that the vocal line emerges from the texture without heaviness or strain. Bar 14, with its duplet and the marking etwas zögernd (‘somewhat hesitantly’), offers the singer a moment of stillness to emphasise the words.

The intensity in the song builds from bar 26 with the instruction nach und nach etwas rascher (‘gradually somewhat quicker’), but is released at the più mosso in bar 30 where the accompaniment suggests the trembling of the heart with the introduction of staccato. Great control of the breath flow and pressure is required from the singer in bars 38–43 to ensure beauty and freedom of tone through the long held high notes. The molto accel. will at this point be driven by the pianist and sensitivity to the singer’s breath capacity will be needed.  The transition to the highest note may need some vowel modification to keep the tone bright and open and to avoid any hint of harshness.

The final bars are characterised by a change in the accompaniment with rising arpeggiated motifs briefly replacing the dotted patterns. The harmonic shifts add colour and depth and the singer needs to feel the change, allowing the growth of the longer notes over these figures to bring greater tonal richness and warmth to the close. As the piano ends the song with a return to the opening material there is a feeling of completion possibly suggesting that the loved one does indeed return and joy is fulfilled.

Au pied de mon lit
 / Lili Boulanger
(Page 72)

Lili Boulanger (1893–1918) was a French composer whose short life was blighted by recurring illness and the grief that she felt following the death of her father when she was only six. Nevertheless she was a precocious talent, growing up in a sophisticated musical family and being taught composition by her older sister, Nadia, herself a renowned musician and teacher. At only 19, Lili became the first woman to win France’s prestigious Prix de Rome for composition.

At the age of 20, she started to compose the song cycle, Clairières dans le ciel, a set of 13 songs on words by the symbolist poet Francis Jammeau. The texts track the unfolding of a relationship of love between two people though the poetic language suggests that the affair was an imaginary rather than a real one. Boulanger seems to have identified very closely with the poems. ‘Au pied de mon lit’, which is the fifth song in the cycle, takes the idea of a religious icon, which is hanging at the foot of the bed, inspiring the narrator in the times when he feels unworthy of his beloved. Boulanger had a similar icon hanging in her bedroom.

The technical challenges of this song are many not least in the singer’s need to respond to the complexities of the harmonic language Boulanger employs. She advanced the Impressionism of her era with the shifts of key and modality that underpin her writing. Much chromaticism is used as this song progresses; intonation and centring of each and every note is important as the singer feels the evocation of the changing moods that the harmony suggests.

The opening bars, marked sans lenteur (‘without slowness’) are nevertheless gentle and calm and the direction simple implies a delicacy and repose which requires a beautiful yet controlled lyricism from the singer. The dynamic range is restrained and the passing dissonance in the chords should not disturb the line.  The ensuing section is very different as the texture changes and the mood shifts. The sonorous yet quiet piano triplets build intensity and the voice emerges in a dramatic interjection at f and largement (‘broadly’). The strength required to sustain these phrases should be grounded and supported with the larynx lowered to give warmth and colour without strain. The notes lie high in the tessitura so unwanted tension, which will compromise the sound is to be avoided. The piano moves to a ‘simmering’ (frémissement) accompaniment in bars 17–21 and here the vowel sounds in the text are often forward and closed. The challenge is to keep the tone bright and free whilst still maintaining a pp dynamic along with complete control of the tuning.  Breathing for the final phrase of this section needs management too. It is possible to breath before ‘qui’ in bar 21 to ensure that the long held notes in bars 23 and 24 are fully sustained.

At Tempo I, much emotion needs to be communicated to remain true to Boulanger’s marking of emu or ‘moved’. The vocal f is above the return of relatively sparse block chords in the piano and so needs to be full but not overly assertive The closing bars are marked avec une douceur infinie (‘with an infinite sweetness’) and the tonal palette for the singer needs to change once again to bring out the feeling of peace after the turmoil of the preceding emotion. The last long note should be balanced with the accompaniment though, as there is a fleeting reminder of the previous passion with the return of the triplet figuration.

Lili Boulanger said of the songs in the cycle that ‘all these songs should be sung with the feeling of evoking a past that is still fresh in the mind’ and the singer’s craft should be seamlessly incorporated into this song to allow that feeling of freshness to emerge.

Chiquitita la novia
 / Fernando Obradors
(Page 77)

Fernando Obradors (1897–1945) was born in Barcelona and was a largely self taught conductor and composer. He is perhaps best known for his four volumes of songs, arrangements of Spanish poetry, called Canciones clásicas españolas, written between 1921 and 1941. They are in a Neoclassical style with much emphasis on rhythm and balance, but heavily influenced by Spanish folk songs and flamenco music, often incorporating vocal virtuosity and dance like vitality. ‘Chiquitita la novia’ comes from the first volume of the Canciones clasicas espanolas in which all the songs deal with aspects of love.

The words of the song are by Curro Dulce (the stage name of Franciso Fernandez Bohiga, a famous flamenco singer who was said to have a voice of great power). The flamenco influences on this song are immediately apparent in the fiery introduction from the piano, followed by a flamboyant melismatic passage from the singer. This is based on a traditional cante jonde (‘deep song’) flamenco cadenza, though as the song progresses the words may suggest another flamenco style, that of canto chico (‘little song’) whose themes are lighter and include love and humour.

The cadenza-like passage is marked un poco a piacere and the singer can feel a little rhythmic freedom here as the metre changes and the piano part thins and becomes almost guitar like with simple supporting spread chords.  The semiquavers should be very neat and cleanly articulated, as should the decorative triplets in bars 25 and 29, which occur in the ensuing section of the song. Here the voice soars over a rapid and energised accompaniment that pulsates with energy and the singer and pianist need to be conscious of fitting together carefully.

After a piano interlude this material is revisited but in bar 69 the singer needs to observe the instruction boca cerrada (‘mouth closed’) producing a humming sound that stays resonant and projected. As the music moves back into simple triple metre at bar 72 the instruction boca abierta (‘mouth open’) brings the singer back to the cadenza like quality of the opening of the song. Here though there is a build to the final high climactic note marked con fuerza (‘with force’) and the singer needs to ensure that this note is fully anchored and supported so that it can ring out over the piano’s impassioned chords. The whole should come to a jubilant and exhilarating finish.

Stagecraft requires consideration in a performance of this song. In the piano passage at the very opening and during the interlude from bars 39–54 the singer needs to ensure that the character of the song is retained, keeping facial expression and body language engaged.

Awst: Traeth y Pigyn (August: On the Beach)
 / Mansel Thomas
(Page 86)

Mansel Thomas (1909–1986) was a Welsh composer, conductor and adjudicator who won a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music in London at the age of 16. From 1946–1965 he was the principal conductor of the BBC Welsh Orchestra and the BBC Welsh Chorus and, in 1950, he was appointed Head of Music at BBC Wales where he helped to promote Welsh music and Welsh artists. Among his own compositions there are over 150 songs and traditional melody arrangements for solo voice.

‘Awst: Traeth y Pigyn (August: On the Beach)’ comes from a collection of twelve songs called Caneuon y Misoedd (Songs of the Year) with one song for each of the 12 months from January through to December. The words are by T Liew Jones, a Welsh‑language writer who first achieved recognition as a poet by winning the chair at the National Eisteddfod in Wales in 1958 and again in 1959. He is however mostly known for his many, popular children’s books.

There is a child-like quality to the text of ‘Awst: Traeth y Pigyn’ with its images of sandcastles, shells, boats and the sun on the blue waves conjuring up a feeling of the freedom of childhood holidays. Throughout the song there is a sense of movement in the piano accompaniment with the rising and falling quavers in compound metre suggesting the waves of the sea.

The singer needs to feel the lilt of the compound metre without too much stress on strong beats and in the opening section the changes of metre should flow seamlessly, not interrupting the momentum of the song. Duplets are a feature of the piano writing in this first part of the song but the singer also has them in bar 6 and bar 16. Great care needs to be taken to ensure that they stay rhythmically accurate yet smooth and even, integrating neatly with the rhythms in the accompaniment. Pitching too needs to be very assured against the chromatic harmonies. The high note in bar 17 is marked p and should be produced without strain or breathiness.

Duplets become more of feature for the singer in the second section of the song and careful articulation of the words will give them impetus whilst keeping clarity and tight cohesion. At bar 32 the tempo quickens slightly and there is an injection of increased energy. The rising intervals, especially those that sit higher in the voice as in bars 42 and 44 should be cleanly sung without swooping and, as the tempo relaxes down again from bar 46, controlled management of the decreasing dynamic palette is required allowing the song to finish on a nourished but gentle piano sound. The final long held note should be initiated on the breath and fully supported with good pressure, allowing the tone to be fully sustained right through the closing fermata.

/ Dorothy Freed
(Page 92)

Dorothy Freed (1919–2000) was born in Dunedin, New Zealand and studied composition with Douglas Lilburn at Victoria, University of Wellington. Alongside her work as a composer she was a librarian and a journalist and helped to found SOUNZ, the centre for New Zealand music and a database for its preservation. During her life she won many prizes including, in 1998, the NZ Order of Merit.

The text is by Arthur Rex Dugard Fairburn, another New Zealander, whose poetry reflected his love of the landscape of his country and his particular affection for the sea. Throughout his work the themes of love and mortality intermingle with a strong evocation of the natural world. Kowhai is a song taken from the cycle The Sun, the Wind and the Rain and it takes its title from the tree of the same name native in New Zealand. It is famous for its bright yellow flowers that appear in spring and could be said to resemble candles. The tree has deep significance in the traditions of the native Maori people. The words of the poem evoke strong emotions in memories of times past but also a sense of grief at how life moves on in the changing of the seasons.

Freed marks the score ‘Graceful and expressive’, and the sinuous rise and fall of the lines in the opening section needs to be communicated with ease of integration across the whole vocal range with blended tone throughout. All the notes should be very well centred as the tonality subtly shifts and in particular the rising phrases should be well anchored.  This first part of the song is gentle overall but the dynamic contour is there shaping the natural rise and fall of the phrasing.

The move via the tertiary relationship into the middle section adds another colour to the music and thought can be given as to how to convey the images captured in the words. There is a feeling of buoyancy but no sense of rushing and, as the song returns to the musical material of the opening the dynamic level increases, reaching the climactic point in bar 46. Care is needed to ensure that this grows almost organically without any sense of pushing or strain. The long diminuendo in bars 51–52, which moves quickly from f to p, should be measured and even with the last note placed to gently emphasise the word ‘grief’. The lowest notes of this final phrase need projection but should not be forced allowing the song to finish almost with a sigh as the sadness of the spring ebbing away is left to resonate with the listener.

I Will Always Love You
 / Ned Rorem
(Page 96)

Ned Rorem (born 1923) is an American composer and diarist who studied composition at the Juilliard School in New York. Between the years of 1949 and 1958 he lived in France before returning to America and in 1976 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for music. As well as his symphonic and other orchestral works, he has composed operas, theatrical music and over 500 art songs.

‘I Will Always Love You’ takes as its text a poem by Frank O’Hara who during his lifetime was both an art critic and one of the leading lights in the ‘New York School’ of poets. The poem deals with the gradual fading of a youthful and probably unrequited love that nevertheless will never be forgotten. Rorem has always said that he likes poetry and for him, words and music are always intricately linked.

This is no less true in this song where the natural cadence and rhythm of the words shapes fluid and graceful musical phrases. The singer should follow this inherent contour, taking care to observe the details of the dynamic grading but also allowing the music to ebb and flow with subtle and well integrated changes of tempo as the musical journey unfolds. The gentle, almost wistful p at the start should eventually grow into a passionate and vibrant ff in bar 30, which should not be strident or harsh. The closing bars add another colour as the p fades to pp leaving a lingering sense of regret.

A further challenge for the singer comes with the tuning of notes. There is much chromaticism in the harmony and the tonality is constantly shifting. Against this background, each note in the vocal line should be centred with the vibrato controlled to add warmth but not displacing the pitch. Breath too should be incorporated seamlessly, with inhalation always occurring in sympathy with the meaning of the words.

This song has a lyricism and intimacy that need to be communicated with a sense almost of ease and simplicity. This calls for a well honed technical foundation that allows the song to ‘speak’. Susan Graham who has recorded a selection of Rorem’s songs has said of his writing that it is ‘straightforward and instantly relatable — he knows the human voice — the warmth and the timbre and how to bring them out at exactly the right place’.

Logon mein prem hoga
 / Lakshminarayana Subramaniam
(Page 100)

Dr Lakshminarayana Subramaniam (born 1947) is an Indian violinist, composer and conductor. Coming from a musical family he started his musical studies young before going on to read medicine and qualifying as a GP. He then gained a Masters in Music from the California Institute of the Arts and now holds a doctorate in music. His musical background is in both the Carnatic tradition and Western Classical music and he has collaborated with musicians as diverse as Sir Yehudi Menuhin and Herbie Hancock as well as accompanying renowned vocalists in Carnatic music. His compositions cross both traditions and range from symphonies to film scores. He has over 200 recordings to his name.

The text of ‘Logon mein prem hoga’ is an optimistic and upbeat one, looking to a bright future in which songs will be happy and dreams will be fulfilled. The song falls into distinct sections, which repeat across the piece. The underlying harmony at the opening has an almost modal quality at times, readily capturing a dreamy feel. The singer needs to establish the mood with an engaged facial expression right from the first notes of the piano introduction, holding the stage space and being ready for the first vocal entry at bar 9.

In this first section of the song, cross rhythms are introduced for both the singer and the pianist, injecting energy and propulsion into the lines. Great care needs to be taken with the grace notes. Those in bars 10, 12 and 14, which are ascending, are marked with the instruction gliss. — a slide between the two notes is therefore expected, but this must be done without losing the clarity of either the lower or upper notes. The descending ones in bars 11 and 18 should not slide however but be almost percussive in effect.

The second section of the song uses a repeated rhythmic motif with iitation between the singer and the accompaniment. These short, almost interjectory declamations need neat and agile singing with crisp articulation of the consonants. There should be a feeling of a conversation between the two performers and this requires a strong sense of connection. The decorations in bars 29 and 37 and the semiquavers in bars 30 and 38 also call for clean and precise singing.

The music from section one is then repeated with some modifications and the transition into the highest notes in bar 46 should be clean and delivered with a sense of ease. Repeated material from section two then section one once more, leads to the close of the song. The final bars give a sense of completion with a rit. and a fermata. The singer and pianist need to judge the entry in bar 78 with absolute precision and then bring off the last note together.

The architecture of this song brings unity to the whole and ensemble is vital throughout with the different character of the sections communicated with care from both pianist and singer.

The composer writes:

“‘Logon mein prem hoga’ is a composition for voice and piano, with lyrics in Hindi on the theme of peace, love and harmony.  This composition is based on a raga or scale derived from kharaharapriya raga in Carnatic (South Indian Classical) Music.  Kharaharapriya raga is the 22 of 72 melakarta raga (parent scales) and corresponds to Dorian mode.  It uses harmony which is derived from the raga.  It is in eka tala, one of the seven fundamental rhythmic structures of Carnatic music and corresponds to 4/4 time.”

Here in This Spring
 / Cecilia McDowall
(Page 106)

Cecilia McDowall (born 1951) was born in London and studied at the universities of Edinburgh and London. Her vocal compositions have been commissioned and performed by such leading choirs as the BBC Singers and The Sixteen and she has won many prizes for her work. Characteristics of her style include fluid melodic lines coupled with rhythmic exuberance and occasional dissonance.

‘Here in This Spring’ is one of the three songs from If I Touched the Earth, settings of poems by the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. He was known for his unique and original use of words and imagery and his love of alliteration and rhythm. In ‘Here in This Spring’, there is a sense of being at one with nature in the here and now, in this particular spring, summer, autumn or winter, observing the details of natural environment. Yet, the seasons unfold and are all interconnected and they reflect the much bigger theme of the continuing and cyclical process of life and death and new life.

McDowall has matched the structure of the poem in her musical writing, subtly changing musical patterns as the seasons change and yet linking the whole with repeated reference to a strong cross rhythmic motif in the accompaniment. This give the song impetus and momentum and the singer needs to produce a light, focused and energised tone to match, keeping absolute cohesion and alignment with the piano throughout. Care needs to be taken with semiquavers and the duplets in particular. The words require crisp articulation with firm consonants projecting though the texture.

There are many dynamic markings to observe and thought needs to be given as to how to vary the tonal palette to grade the colours whilst ensuring even quality across the whole. The quieter moments should not slow the tempo or lose clarity. From bar 52 to bar 65 there is a piano interlude and the singer needs to stay completely immersed in the song, providing a bridge between the sections with a sense of continued presence.

The closing bars of the song see the singer repeating the words ‘Says the worlds wears away’ and there is a sense as the dynamic level drops that the conclusion is being reached. However, in bars 86 and 87 there is a sudden injection of animation from the piano with a repeated high descending third, which mimics the sound of the audacious cuckoo and the final phrase for the singer reprises the opening words with a feeling that the seasons will unfold once again. The tone should be bold and resonant, with a well sustained last note the finishes exactly as the piano scale reaches its final note. There should be a sense of joy and life underpinning the whole song with the close delivered with a real flourish.

Sure on This Shining Night
 / David Hamilton
(Page 114)

David Hamilton (born 1955), a New Zealand composer, studied at Auckland University and has held composer in residence positions with the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra and at the New Zealand singing school. ‘Sure on This Shining Night’ comes from the set, Night Songs II, based on poems with nocturnal themes. The words for this song are by the American writer James Agee, who was a journalist, novelist and screenwriter as well as a poet. His father died when he was only six and he also witnessed the poverty and hopelessness of the years of the Great Depression.

The words of ‘Sure on This Shining Night’ are reflective and apparently tranquil but there is also an underlying feeling of melancholy. There is hope that human kindness will be shown in this life (‘this side the ground’) and also a rejoicing in the healing and health shown as the season of summer unfolds. Yet the narrator wanders ‘far alone’ and the closing lines perhaps suggest the insignificance felt in the face of the multitude of stars.

Hamilton captures something of the ambiguity of the text with the shifting metrical patterns and tonal centres. There should be a seamless transition from the singer between the shifts with a strong sense of the overarching shape of the individual lines coalescing into a unified whole. With the near continuous use of the sustaining pedal in the piano, an almost shimmering quality is given to the song, suggestive of the glistening stars with the piano often rising above the singer in pitch to further evoke this image. So careful consideration to the balance between singer and accompanist is required to allow the voice to project but as part of the overall texture. The slightly edgy mood of the off-beat rhythms in the accompaniment from bar 22 to bar 32, for example, need to come through whilst the singer retains a smooth legato, conveying the feeling that all is not necessarily as tranquil as the words imply.

Much of the dynamic palette in the song is gentle and the use of any vibrato should be to enhance the colour without taking on an overtly operatic quality. The f at bar 26 should be placed with the sound joining a controlled exhalation through the ‘h’ at the beginning of the word ‘high’. As this is the highest note in the song it can be free and full to match the word painting.

The singer needs to stay completely immersed in the mood created by the final words of the song as the piano plays the closing bars with a sensitive rit. and sustained last chord.

O Swallow, Swallow
 / Jonathan Dove
(Page  118)

Jonathan Dove, (born 1959) learned the piano, organ and viola before going on to study composition with Robin Holloway at the University of Cambridge. After graduating, he worked as a freelance accompanist, repetiteur, animateur and arranger. He has composed orchestral and chamber music, film scores and choral works as well as nearly 30 operatic works, including the renowned opera Flight.

O Swallow, Swallow is the first of Three Tennyson Songs written as a present for the bass-baritone, Phillippe Sly, and first performed in 2011. The words of this song come from Tennyson’s narrative poem, The Princess. Tennyson, the renowned English poet who was poet laureate for much of Queen Victoria’s reign, often linked strong emotion to landscapes and the themes of transformation and escape recur across his work. Here the steadfast lover waiting in the north entreats the migrating swallow to take a message of love to his sweetheart in the south. He cannot understand why his beloved delays in reciprocating his love when all of nature is coming to life in the spring and time is short.  

Dove has taken the image of the swallow, a bird that spends much of its time in flight, and written an intricate piano part that is continually moving in rapid and agile figurations. Against this the singer has for the most part longer, sustained lines, which need beautifully even and supported tone across the whole vocal range. Longer notes can either be ‘warmed’ or tapered depending on the context but all should be anchored with no wavering or disturbance of pitch. Entries need to be judged with complete precision but should never sound snatched, so inhalation requires careful planning to ensure seamless initiation of notes.

At the start in the vocal line there is a descending minor third motif, which repeats at moments throughout the song. This will need subtle emphasis each time it appears. Sensitive contrast could be included between bars 25–26, where the slightly jagged rhythm picks out the pejorative alliterative sound of the ‘f’ in the evocation of the ‘fierce and fickle’ South and bars 27–28 where the notes lengthen and the alliteration softens to a ‘t’ in ‘true and tender’ North.

From bar 27 the accompaniment includes a new rhythmic fragment that lies high in the texture and the singer has new material with semiquavers that call for rapid, clear and neat enunciation of the words in bars 40, 41 and 43. These bars contrast with the longer lines that follow but again in bars 57 and 59 care is needed to ensure crisp articulation of the slightly awkward word ‘lingereth’. From bar 64 there is a sense of a gradual build as the tessitura moves higher and the dynamics increase in the piano. A sense of impetus should be conveyed by the singer with rich tone that grows in volume and intensity without becoming forced or pushed. The energy heightens still further from bar 92 with the ff in the accompaniment, which sits high above the voice in pitch. As there is a brief reprise of the opening material here, much projection is required though again, warmth of timbre should prevail. The closing bars should be joyous and free with a rounded vowel sound on the [i:] of ‘thee’.

Jonathan Dove has said of his songs that he likes ‘melodies that you can sing…rhythms that you can dance to…I want it to appear effortless’. This is useful insight into how a performance of this song could be approached.

He Moemoea (A Dream)
 / Anthony Ritchie
(Page 130)

Anthony Ritchie was born in 1960 in New Zealand, studied music at Canterbury University and completed his Ph.D on the music of Béla Bartók. He is a prolific composer with over 180 works to his name. From 1979 to 1982 he was one of the foundation members of the National Youth Choir of New Zealand and has maintained an interest in writing both for choirs and for vocal soloists.

‘He Moemoea (A Dream)’ was published in 1993 and takes as its text words written by the New Zealand writer, Keri Hulme. She achieved recognition in 1985 when she won the Man Booker prize for her novel The Bone People. The poem for this song comes from The Silences Between, section 1, and the central figure, Simon, is the same character from The Bone People, a seven-year-old, deeply traumatised mute boy, who was washed up on the beach with no memory. In talking about the inspiration for the poem Hulme has described how: ‘One of the small delights of life…is watching people on beaches become unfettered, children particularly, but adults also. We seem peculiarly adapted to dancing by/in/with waves’.

Ritchie certainly takes this theme of dancing into the music of ‘He Moemoea’. The opening piano writing, light and high, immediately captures the lilt and momentum of the 6 metre and the singer needs to ensure that all entries that follow are tight and rhythmic and fully locked into the accompaniment. A fine sense of energy should pervade the whole of the opening section with thought given as to how to articulate the accents without over exertion. The f dynamics will also have to be well judged so as to eliminate any hint of driving though the tone. From bars 14 to 20 the accompaniment doubles the vocal line but lies above it, so the balance between voice and piano will require attention. The messa di voce in bars 33–34 needs control and the held note in bars 42–43 could gradually disappear into the energised descending scale figure in the piano.

The feeling of energy is replaced in the second section of the song as the tempo slows, the metre changes and the mood becomes darker and more brooding. The direction non vibrato is given at this point and real care needs to be taken regarding the breath flow to ensure a straight tone that is still clear in phonation and not held back or tight. The change back to con vibrato at bar 56 is also aligned with a long, building phrase that needs a return to controlled warmth with excellent management of the air. The low notes at pp in bars 69–70 also need thought as to how to avoid the use of too much ‘chest’ resonance, which would make them too prominent.

Finally the song finishes with a snatch of the material from the opening and a brief return to the vibrant, light colour of  6/8 metre. To ensure that the dynamic details are incorporated, thoughtful balance between projection and p is required. It may be helpful to imagine Simon disappearing out of sight as he dances along the shoreline.

Salve regina
 / Roxana Panufnik
(Page 136)

Roxana Panufnik, a British composer of Polish heritage, was born in 1968 and was immersed in music from a young age with a strong influence coming from her father the composer and conductor, Sir Andrzej Panufnik. She studied composition at the Royal Academy of Music and has produced many works across different genres, from opera to ballet, musical theatre, choral works, orchestral and chamber music to compositions for film and TV. She has a strong interest in world music and in the building of bridges through music between religious faiths. She enjoyed singing in choirs and has expressed her love of the human voice.

‘Salve regina’, published in 2015, is a setting of the text of the Marian antiphon, which is sung in the season of Trinity in the Christian liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church. An antiphon is a religious text or prayer and the ‘Salve regina’ would traditionally have been sung at Compline, or Night Prayer, the final church service or ‘office’ of the day. The practice of antiphonal singing dates back to the Middle Ages when monks would have chanted the offices and Panufnik wrote her setting for the 80th birthday of her friend Dame Raphael, a Benedictine nun.

Panufnik herself has said that she ‘set it in a very unplainsongy way’ but it clearly evokes an atmosphere of stillness and space, conjuring up the echoing acoustic of an abbey or monastery. The opening block chords on the piano are stately and still yet suggest depth and colour as the inner harmony subtly shifts. The singer can take this sense of composure into the opening phrases, giving them subtle shape without exaggeration or too much weight. The restrained movement of the accompaniment allows the vocal lines to open out and these will benefit from a beautifully smooth and supple legato line with long vowels and gentle consonants. Breath management is essential and, if the intake of air at the beginnings of each phrase is silent with a feeling of the voice joining the flow of the breath, then the sense of repose will be further enhanced.

At bar 12, the injection of passion is matched by a dotted rhythm and the triplet quavers, which bring more urgency into the music. The dynamics are always carefully graded and, when the f is reached in bar 23, thought can be given as to how much warmth and weight it requires so that the volume does not become too driven or intrusive. The lower tessitura in bars 28–32 also will need attention so that the integration of the vocal registers is assured.

In the final part of the song there are some long phrases where breath flow will require good management to avoid any tension appearing in the sound. The slight changes of tempo should seem effortless and great control is needed to sustain the very last note through the fermata and the diminuendo, so that the close of the music brings a sense of resolution and completion.

Performance notes by Luise Horrocks


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