Year
1958-60
Duration
12'
Category
Voice & Piano
Premiere
March 1, 1961
Hertz Hall, University of California, Berkeley
Miriam Abramowitsch, soprano / David Del Tredici, piano
Texts

Chamber Music and Pomes Penyeach by James Joyce

Parts
#TitleDedication
1Dove SongAnn Del Tredici
2She Weeps Over RahoonMiriam Abramowitsch
3A Flower Given to My DaughterNoni
4Monotonememory of Martha Mood Lehmann
Buy Score
Boosey & Hawkes

Written between 1958 and 1960, these songs are the first of my compositions involving voice. Unlike the James Joyce settings that were to follow (I HEAR AN ARMY; NIGHT CONJURE—VERSE; SYZYGY) and my many settings of Lewis Carroll, these vocal lines are relatively simple and unadorned. The high—flying, extraverted virtuosity of that later style is a different world from these smoothly flowing, conjunct lines which are written well within the treble staff and attempt to evoke moods of lieder—like intimacy and youthful romantic yearning.

Rather than the traditional vocal 'accompaniment,' the piano parts for these songs are really more like tiny piano concertos and were written to be performed by myself at a time when I was still an aspiring piano virtuoso. They are florid and elaborate—swirling embroideries of notes surrounding the voice with (what seems to me NOW) an almost reckless abandon.

In DOVE SONG insistent piano tremolos and trills suggest not only the fluttering wings of the dove but also the restless, expectant emotion of the text.

SHE WEEPS OVER RAHOON is a somber, quite dissonant song leavened sporadically by the appearance of unexpected dominant seventh chords. (The music for the opening verse, written in 1958, is the first that I ever composed and wrote down. It remains unchanged from that day.)

"Frail," "rosefrail," "frailest"—such words from A FLOWER GIVEN TO MY DAUGHTER suggested its delicate, fleeting, scherzo-like quality.

MONOTONE could almost be called a piece for solo piano with vocal accompaniment, so embellished is the piano writing. As the piece progresses, a tension is created between the slow moving. 'monotonous' harmony and the increasingly elaborate proliferation of motes which engulfs it.

– David Del Tredici
Del Tredici gave his Joyce songs a vocal line of great simplicity and beauty These were written nearly 20 years ago and show Del Tredici's aptitude already at that early date for capturing the meaning of words, In such phrases, for example, as "A music of sighs," or "Rain on Rahoon falls softly."

The piano accompaniment to these, "Dove Song," "She Weeps Over Rahoon," "A Flower Given to My Daughter" and "Monotone," would be demanding for a virtuoso and has a wonderfully youthful aspect to it.
The music is full of a rich, imaginative, post-impressionist kind of musical sound and line; the manner and matter are more or less Bergian or Scriabinish, more colorful perhaps than profound but certainly showing a good deal of talent and some poetry, too.
Winifred Black was the intelligent soprano in the performance of Del Tredici's Four Joyce Songs from 1959, with the composer at the piano. The piano is the source of energy and forward motion in these songs, and it would take a more powerful singer than Miss Black, who nevertheless was secure, to keep the robust performance by Del Tredici from upsetting the balance. The piano does for these songs what the Wagner orchestra does for the operas.

The fluttering, tremulous piano accompaniment was the background to "Dove Song," in which the voice moves in a sensuous chromatic line. Del Tredici's "bird painting" is playful, but almost too attractive. The bird is less colorful than its cage.

The composer paints mood beautifully In "A Flower Given To My Daughter," which is nervous but mysterious. In "Monotone" the water and wind are as restless as the chromaticism.

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Recent & Upcoming Performances (1)

Mar 13, 2017 7:00 pm
DDT 80th Birthday Concert
Joe's Pub, Public Theater, NYC

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