Composer: Various Composers ()
Performance date: 30/06/2022
Venue: St. Brendan’s Church
Recording Engineer: Simon Cullen, Ergodos
Instrumentation Category:Solo Voice
Lotte Betts-Dean -
Hill Quartet (Bridget O'Donnell, David López Ibáñez [violins], Julia Doukakis [viola], Ben Michaels [cello]) - [quartet]
Brett Dean - [viola]
Joseph Havlat - [Piano]
Caroline Shaw [b.1982] Cant voi l’aube
Katie Noonan [b.1977] Song of Hope
Kate Bush [b.1958] The Man with the Child in his Eyes (arr. Brett Dean)
Joseph Marx [1882-1964] Durch Einsamkeiten 
Arthur Bliss [1891-1975] Two Nursery Rhymes 
1. The Ragwort
2. The Dandelion
Edmund Rubbra [1901-1986] Two Sonnets by William Alabaster Op.87 
1. Upon the Crucifix
2. On the Reed of our Lord’s Passion
Ivor Gurney [1890-1937] In the Black Winter Morning 
Brett Dean [b.1961] Poems and Prayers [2006/11]
2. A Child is a Grub
3. Prayer I
5. Prayer II
Johannes Brahms [1833–1897] Two songs with viola Op.91 [1864/1884]
1. Gestillte Sehnsucht [Friedrich Rückert]
2. Geistliches Wiegenlied [from Lope de Vega, trans. Emanuel Geibel]
This intriguing recital created by mezzo Lotte Betts-Dean and composer and violist Brett Dean has many parts beginning with Caroline Shaw’s setting of the anonymous 12th Century troubadour text that she wrote for Ann Sofie von Otter and Brooklyn Rider. Only the text survived the centuries so Shaw wrote a new modal-style melody with an intriguing quartet accompaniment. Katie Noonan’s Song of Hope with a text by Oodgeroo Noonuccal, Queenslander and First Nation icon is joined by Kate Bush’s The Man with the Child in his Eyes, both with the quartet backing group.
The second set is a group of early 20th Century songs for voice, viola and piano. Joseph Marx was an Austrian composer, critic and teacher. His compositions were exclusively tonal and he was best-known for his many Lieder. He was one of the most active and influential teachers of the Twentieth Century on a par with Nadia Boulanger. Durch Einsamkeiten is a short poem by the neo-romantic poet, Anton Wildgans. In it a solitary wanderer crosses mountains, forests and rivers to reach the ferryman who will row him across to a silent country, where there is peace, a natural desire in 1916.
The musical education of Arthur Bliss was interrupted by the Great War. He served on the Front, twice wounded, once gassed but with lifetime emotional wounds. After the War he earned a reputation as avant-garde, Elgar describing him as disconcertingly modern, but he was soon replaced by Walton and Britten in that role. Two Nursery Rhymes was originally written for clarinet, voice and piano to texts by Frances Cornford. Edmund Rubbra’s setting of two sonnets by the 17th Century religious poet William Alabaster was however composed with viola obbligato, perfectly matched to the devotional text.
Deirdre Gribbin’s Maps of Awakening was written for virtuoso bass player Malachy Robinson. The composer writes that maps not only provide a connection to a place but also serve as tools of discovery. During Lockdown of 2020-21 maps were my source for adventure and exploration beyond the confines of life and work in a small and often stifling geographical space. An awareness of my emotional map during Covid was heightened. For me, Maps of Awakening is a realisation about the necessity and importance of being grounded in the familiar in order to navigate the new.
Ivor Gurney, who was both poet and composer, was a deeply troubled figure even before his service on the Front during the Great War. All his life he suffered from manic depression and he spent his last fifteen years in psychiatric hospitals, where he continued to both write and compose. He wrote about 300 songs of which about a third have been published. Gurney saw his original work as a composer to be his most important: as he wrote, the brighter visions brought music; the lesser poetry or mere pleasurable emotion. In the Black Winter Morning is a setting of a poem by Thomas Hardy called Bereft.
Brett Dean’s five songs for mezzo and piano form a highly distinctive showpiece, containing elements reminiscent of cabaret. The style is eclectic, within a ‘friendly atonal’ mode. Each song could hardly be more different. The sharp, mordant texts have more than a hint of irony and bitterness.. The first three songs are brief, but highly concentrated. The vocal range throughout is comfortable and eminently practicable, avoiding extremes. Declamatory speech occurs in the fourth, and the last movement is almost entirely in Sprechstimme.
In 1853, when Brahms was barely twenty he met the two people, who were to have the greatest influence on his life – the spectacular violinist Joseph Joachim and the virtuoso pianist Clara Schumann. These two viola songs are woven into the story of his great friendship with Joachim. In 1863 Joachim married the mezzo-soprano Annelie Weiss and Brahms wrote to him At the proper time I will send you a wonderful Old Catholic song for domestic use. You won’t find a better cradlesong. So in September the next year, Joachim wrote Please send me the cradle song which you still owe me, I shall be needing it very soon.
Although this song wasn’t published for another 20 years in very different circumstances, there is no doubt that Brahms did deliver the Geistliches Wiegenlied, which does indeed quote from an old carol Joseph, lieber Joseph mein. And the child, perhaps inevitably, was christened Johannes.
Unfortunately Joachim and Annelie’s marriage foundered on Joachim’s unfounded jealousy. His divorce proceedings against Annelie were dismissed partly because of Brahms’ testimony that Joachim’s passionate imagination was playing a sinful, inexcusable game with the best and most holy thing that fate has granted him. Joachim was naturally furious and Brahms composed Gestillte Sehnsucht as a companion piece to Geistliches Wiegenlied and sent him the two songs as a peace offering designed to re-unite the warring couple, at the very least on stage. In this he was unsuccessful and it took the composition of the Double Concerto in 1887 to win back Joachim’s friendship.
The two songs are the only example of vocal chamber music that Brahms composed and the interweaving of voice and viola creates an exquisite blend of colour and sonority. Both songs are unusually extended and are quite comparable in scale to a sonata slow movement. Gestillte Sehnsucht, one of Brahms’ most impressive nature-meditations, begins with a long instrumental prelude introducing the principal theme, answered and later adopted by the voice. The imagery of the wind in the trees is echoed in the Wiegenlied and Rückert here combines it with visions of sunset and birdsong that voice and viola can intertwine with each other. Geistliches Wiegenlied uses an old sixteenth century hymn with a hypnotic melody that envelops us with its sensuous embrace and leaves voice and viola ringing in our head long afterwards.
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