Three Lieder After Franz Schubert

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i. sollst sanft
ii. still ist die nacht
iii. soll ich mit dir gehn?

The Lieder of Franz Schubert are astonishing in their economy. Schubert conjures such intense atmosphere with so little. It is this singularity that attracts me most. My songs are palimpsests – distillations, celebrations and reflections…

sollst sanft takes the opening chord progression of Schubert’s Claudius setting, “Der Tod und das Mädchen”, as its cantus firmus, creating an organum via arppegiation, and re-voicing according to a harmonic series. The text I set is sung by “Der Tod” (Death) in Schubert’s song: “You are going to sleep soundly in my arms.” My song is an amplification of this sentiment: the simple inevitability of death as metaphor for the flow of life.

still ist die nacht is about the revelation of a tiny artefact – the kind of object you come across that makes you want to know more because all you have is a small piece of the story. A direct quote from Schubert’s “Der Doppelgänger” is at the centre of this work, the surrounding music rippling out from it like resonance, or folklore passed on from generation to generation.

soll ich mit dir gehn? takes it text, and mono-harmonic atmosphere from the final song of Schubert’s Winterreise, “Der Leiermann” (The Organ Grinder). Death is not speaking here, but personified as the organ grinder. The question of whether or not to join with Death is felt here in terms of a larger affirmation of the continuity/inevitability of things. The form of the song is a very personal manipulation of a Javanese ‘ladrang’ structure. The ghost of a young John Cage haunts the melodies.

Subtitle: A song-cycle for female voice and piano
Instrumentation: female voice, piano
Duration: circa 10′
Date of composition: 2011
Commissioned by Elizabeth Hilliard and David Bremner.
First Performance: Elizabeth Hilliard, soprano; David Bremner, piano, 31 January 2012, Kevin Barry Room, National Concert Hall, Dublin
Score: Please email to obtain the latest score.