Tenor, Viola, and Piano
Duration: ca. 8 minutes
Publisher: C. F. Peters Corporation, Edition Peters 67577
…in sad cypress… was composed in 1989 for a concert of the Washington Square Contemporary Music Society. There was already another work on the program for tenor, viola and piano, and since the tenor was to be Constantine Cassolas, a singer whose wonderful vocal and interpretive skills I greatly admired, I was pleased to write for the same combination. Cassolas’ singing is noteworthy not only for its beauty of tone but also for the life which he brings to the texts he sings. In the work’s first performance, on November 16, 1989 in Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, he was joined by violist Linda Moss and pianist Walter Hilse. The viola, with its dark, grainy, often rather veiled quality seems particularly well-suited to the overall rather melancholy poetry I chose for this cycle; even the lively second song, a setting of “Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind” could not in the end escape a certain bitter edginess that fits the instrument well, making it a perfect foil for the beauty and expressivity of a lyric tenor voice such as that of Mr. Cassolas.
The outer songs are elegiac in tone, as befits the poetry, and the succession of chords in the piano which plays such an important role in the first song recurs at the end of the final one. Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind is not only in a much faster tempo, but contains the most extreme dynamic contrasts in the entire cycle. Indeed, this piece intrudes upon the elegiac world of the first song, interrupting its final chord with sharply articulated octaves in the piano, hammered bow strokes in the viola and a more angular vocal line. By contrast, the “Heigh-ho!” refrains are softer and lighter in their articulation. She never told her love, with its piano introduction bathed in pedal, returns us from the brittle textures of the previous song to a more flowing, lyrical style, building in intensity as the viola moves into its high register.
The three songs are performed without pause.