I. I thought once how Theocritus had sung
- Performer(s) Arleen Auger, soprano; Members of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Minnesota Orchestra, Joel Revzen, conductor
- Score Available From
- Oxford University Press Get this score edition-peters.com
- Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Soprano, piano or chamber orchestra: 1,1,2,1/2,0,0,0,/perc*/hp/str.
I met Arleen Auger in 1988 through our mutual friend, Joel Revzen. It was April, morel mushroom hunting time in Minnesota, and that is what we talked about for the better part of our first meeting - mushroom hunting, nature, the human spirit, music, and the energy which takes us beyond our natural lives. Arleen spoke to me about her love of the art song repertoire. She talked about love, and life, and her desire that I compose a work which spoke about the finding of mature love. She wished to create with me a cycle of songs which were in contrast to the young girl's feeling for the promise of love in Frauen Lieben und Leben. Arleen told me that the poetry she most loved was Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese. She admired the fact that within the stylized and romantic language, lived a creative woman grappling with issues seem still to engulf modern women. What part of her voice must she sacrifice to the lover and the world? Will the sacrifice be reciprocated? Can her essence survive? Browning at times soars to heights of daring - demanding the world take her as she is - at other moments her self-confidence wavers. Ultimately she realizes - as we must - that love and death demand constant faith in the leaps life requires. Over the next months, Arleen and I read the Sonnets and decided together on a grouping that represented Browning's growth in mature love and at the same time touched the artist in Arleen. We worked by mail and in person. I most remember the meeting in my living room when we both had our copies of the Sonnets spread out on the floor and we lay on our stomachs for the better part of two hours struggling over a line in "My Letters" trying to understand what it meant. Celia Novo, Arleen's wonderful friend, and my daughter Wynne brought us food and added their thoughts to the discussion. For me that afternoon was the essence of why a composer lives to work.
Arleen's plan for the work was to preview it at the Aspen Music Festival with the Aspen Music Festival Orchestra, Joel Revzen conducting. We did so in 1989. After that preview we would then perfect the work and preview it again. We eliminated one song and revised another and composed a new song. We then previewed the cycle with members of both the Minnesota Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra at the Ordway Music Theater in November 1991 with the intent of recording it as an aid to securing the official premier performance. Shortly thereafter, Arleen became ill.
In our last correspondence, Arleen wrote this: “Finally I have been able to find enough peace and quiet, rest and concentration time... to listen to the tape of our piece… Oh, Libby, every time I hear our piece the more I fall in love with it. You have really written something very special which touches my heart and speaks my intentions from our project. I only regret that I will not be able to debut (premier) it and that someone will have that pleasure and honor because it will and must be performed!” (March 1993)
In our work I had the pleasure of collaborating with a supremely graceful, intelligent, spiritual and deeply talented human being. I am the one who is honored to have worked with Arleen Auger.