Listen: II. Travels

Performed By: Ellen Cowan, mezzo-soprano; Tom Ashworth, trombone; John Jensen, piano

Seven songs for mezzo-soprano, solo trombone, and orchestra

I. To be a Painter II. Travels III. Franco-Prussian War IV. Europe Again V. Early Work VI. Degas VII. Maturity

Mezzo-soprano, trombone, orchestra: 3 flutes (3rd doubles piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 Bb clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 C trumpets, 2 percussion: [1 - bongos, snare drum, wood block, tom-toms (high, medium, low), crash cymbals, suspended cymbals, orchestra bells, castanets, triangle (medium)], [2 - tam-tam (large), wood block, snare drum, tom-toms (high, medium, low), suspended cymbal, chimes, bass drum, marimba], timpani, harp, strings, 15 projections of Mary Cassatt's paintings

Duration: 30 minutes

Commissioned By:
Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra and The Keller Foundation

March 18-19, 1994 by Linn Maxwell, mezzo soprano; Ava Ordman, trombone; and the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra, Catherine Comet, conductor

Available From:
Oxford University Press, rented by C.F. Peters

Composer's Notes:
Mary Stevenson Cassatt was a central figure in establishing the work of the impressionists firmly in fine American art collections. Born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania (now part of Pittsburgh), Cassatt pursued her painting career chiefly in Europe. She was part of upper-crust Victorian Pennsylvania society and was expected to maintain certain social properties. While decorously adhering to the expectations of her class, she nevertheless lived the life of an independent working artist, fiercely following her vision with a leader's voice. Her deep friendships with patron Louisine Havermeyer and artist Edgar Degas frame the chronology of her life and work.
What I am drawn to in Mary Cassatt is her extraordinary paintings and her strong voice. Here is a Victorian woman who painted, wrote and spoke with a clear, single-minded purpose - to paint. She had powerful friendships centered in her art. While she was devoted to her parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, there is no evidence that she cared to pursue a marriage partnership. In Victorian times, she would have had to sacrifice her work to do so. Cassatt was also keenly aware of and involved in her world beyond her art, figuring strongly in the suffragette movement, caring deeply for the plight of the less fortunate, concerned fully with the political climate of Europe and America during World War I.
Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) is a portrait of the artist. I have combined the mezzo- soprano as the embodied character of Cassatt with the trombone as Cassatt's spirit to create a fuller understanding of the artist. The libretto is fashioned from Cassatt's letters, articles written by her contemporaries, and some material I wrote based on my research.
Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) was commissioned by the Keller Foundation. I am deeply indebted to the Keller Foundation for its faith in art and art's role in human history.
— Libby Larsen
To rent this piece, please visit C.F. Peters.

Score Errata:
- m.110 (vocal score) voice part: last "a" should be "a-flat" to match the orchestral score.
- m.191 (vocal score & orchestral score) trombone part: fourth note should be a d-flat to match imitation of previous vocal line.
- m.270 (vocal score) piano part: last "f" in beat four should be an "f-flat" to match vocal line.
- m.565 (orchestra score) voice part: last note of vocal line should be a "b-natural" as in orchestral score.