Lily delivered a spellbinding performance of a song cycle by Aaron Copland in today’s lunchtime recital.
Twelve poems of Emily Dickinson was completed in 1950, and each song is dedicated to a different American composer. Copland’s music is steeped in the sounds of ‘The New World’, and so it seems obligatory that he should have used American poetry for his first major vocal work.
The first two songs were an immersion in nature. The piano began by evoking birdsong, before the singer delighted in scenes from the natural world. (It was very apt to hear Oakham’s birds sing between some of the songs today!) There came a wind like a bugle illustrated a more destructive version of nature, with fast delivery of the text and large melodic leaps.
We sensed something of Emily Dickinson’s loneliness in Heart, we will forget him sung by Lily with melancholy and tender expression. In Dear March, come in! the poet revels at the coming of spring, whilst the music is breathless with joy. A sombre mood was evoked once again at the dramatic climax of the cycle: Sleep is supposed to be demanded precise intonation, and was the perfect showcase for Lily’s impressive vocal range. Going to Heaven, somewhere between Gospel music and a jig, was exuberant and joyous with impressive dexterity from singer and pianist alike.
Copland’s music for the last song was actually the first to be composed. He was captivated by Dickinson’s poem, The Chariot, and was subsequently inspired to visit the poet’s home in order to capture her spirit in his other settings. Lily’s dignified manner of delivery mirrored Copland’s profound respect for the poet’s verse.
Sometimes virtuosic, and at other times understated, Lily’s performance was mature and brought compelling drama to this collection of disparate poems. A great achievement. Well done, Lily!