Sunday, 6 September 2015

Britten - The Nightingale and the Rose

Yes, yet another Nightingale. You'll not hear me complaining, there's no way I could do this blog without them.

This is a Nightingale by Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) from The Poet's Echo, six settings of poems by Pushkin that Britten wrote when he was on holiday in Russia in 1965, and dedicated to megastar cellist Rostropovich and his wife, the megastar soprano Galina Vishnevskaya.

You'll hear the Nightingale singing delicately on the piano, with a strange twilight quality that always makes so much of Britten's music a bit uncomfortable to listen to. But in a good way.

The Poet's Echo

4. The Nightingale and the Rose

V bezmolvii sadov, vesnoj, vo mgle nochej,
pajot nad rozoju vostochnyj solovej.
No roza milaja ne chuvstvujet, ne vnemlet,
I pod vljublennyj gimn kolebletsja i dremlet.
Ne tak li ty pajosh’ dlja khladnoj krasoty?
Opomnis’, o po’et, k chemu stremish’sja ty?
Ona ne slushajet, ne chuvstvujet po’eta;
gljadish’ – ana cvetet; zyvajesh’ – net atveta.

The garden’s dark and still; ’tis spring; no night wind blows.
He sings! the nightingale, his love song to the rose.
She does not hearken, his rose beloved, disdainful,
and to his amorous hymn, she dozes, nodding and swaying.
With such words would you melt cold beauty into fire?
O poet, be aware how far you would aspire!
She is not listening, no poems can entrance her;
you gaze; she only flowers; you call her; there’s no answer.


Sunday, 30 August 2015

John Luther Adams - songbirdsongs

Last night, BBC Radio 3 broadcast I programme I made with John Luther Adams (b.1953) on Hear & Now. The more you hear of his music, the more you become totally convinced that he's one of the cultural giants of our time. Listen to Become Ocean and you'll understand what I mean. He told me that birdsong in the 1970s was part of what transformed him into the composer he is today, and that forty years after he discovered birds, they're having a big impact on him yet again - this is seriously exciting news for anyone who likes their music full of birds.

His most recent bird piece was the brilliant Dream of the Canyon Wren, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, but the first piece where he made use of bird song was songbirdsongs, written between 1974-1980 after he spent time in an isolated cabin in Georgia. He told me that when he was there, he kept on hearing the most incredible music, so he followed the music into the forest, and discovered that the music was a Wood Thrush.

songbirdsongs is in 9 parts:

1) Wood Thrush
2) Morningfieldsong
3) Meadowdance
4) August Voice
5) Mourning Dove
6) Apple Blossom Round
7) Not-quitespringdawn
8) Joyful Noise
9) Evensong

Messiaen also had a thing for Wood Thrushes ...


Sunday, 16 August 2015

Ravel - Oiseaux tristes

Sad birds (oiseaux tristes) call "in a very dark forest during the hottest hours of summer"

Sad and very beautiful. Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) wrote this for solo piano as part of a set of five pieces called Miroirs in 1905.

So this was a very short post. Time is constantly against me at the moment - my second daughter Nina was born two weeks ago.