Dark river : eight Sapphic songs for soprano or mezzo, viola and piano
by Ralph Middenway (2012)
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Dark river : eight Sapphic songs for soprano or mezzo, viola and piano / music: Ralph Middenway ; lyrics: Edna St Vincent Millay.
Library shelf no. 783.66547/MID 2 [Available for loan]
The song-cycle uses eight Sapphic poems by Edna St Vincent Millay, 'Sapphic' in the sense that they all reflect Millay's libertarian Greenwich Village life-style, and her interest in the then current (1920s) interest in Sappho's presumed libertarian life-style 2500 years previously on Lesbos.
Its musical progenitors are the two Brahms songs with mezzo, viola and piano, but its lyrics could hardly be more different, based as they are on Millay's bisexual, free-love ideology and practice. All the songs are in the first person: the singer variously personifies Millay, the historic Sappho and the Sappho of legend, a literary construct by Athenian comedic writers long after her death.
Instrumentation: Soprano or mezzo-soprano, viola, piano.
Duration: 27 min.
Difficulty: Advanced — Requires considerable subtlety in performance
The composer notes: The overall style is not unlike that of most of my song-cycles: the vocal line music derives from the ebb and flow of the lyrics; the viola 'thinks aloud' when the singer is silent, and the piano sets the overall mood.
The composer notes:
The lyrics are not easy; programmes should include the words and odd explanatory notes (provided in preliminary pages). In performance, the tempi should generally be faster than those in the score: MMs and tempo text are included for rehearsal purposes. Note: some poems are still in copyright, some not.
- In the form/style of: Song Cycles
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