Musings on m
y life as a busy opera singer, voice teacher, photographer and mom - not necessarily in that order! I consider myself immensely fortunate to have carved out a way of doing all of these things which mean so much to me - it may sometimes get a little crazy, but it's always worth it. Welcome to the madhouse!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Discovering new music

Let's face it - there's a point in a musician's life (ok, in THIS musician's life) where you start to think you're pretty well-versed in repertoire. You've studied, listened and learned. You've been around the business a while and are a self-confessed repertoire-holic (even as a teenager I used to dig through volumes of song and choral rep just because it interested me). And when you're married to a musical polymath as I am, that tends to put even more repertoire in your path so, once you're familiar with most of what's regularly presented, know what's available as a recording, or know what you (or friends and colleagues) have actually performed, you shouldn''t expect too many surprises, right??


It's a particular delight when a previously unheard-of composer comes to light. Deodat de Severac, in this case. Mr Musical Polymath had heard of his piano works in passing, but was entirely UNfamiliar with his output of delicious songs, including at least one setting of an Edgar Allan Poe text (translated by Mallarme), which fits beautifully into the program for the forthcoming Halloween recital we are preparing which is based on the life and works of EAP.

Thanks to the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin, the discoveries haven't stopped there: they have an entire digital archive of Poe musical settings, which yielded some more "unsung heroes". We're particularly intrigued by the songs of the American Edward Royce, a composer about whom neither of us know anything at all and so far we have discovered little (anybody who knows of or about him, please do let us know!). What I can say is that this is genuinely good music that seems to have sunk without trace - how does that happen?!

Recitals are always fun to prepare and present, but becoming acquainted with entire bodies of work that I didn't even know existed is a real joy; I love that process of discovery, and am thrilled to be able to champion some unfamiliar works!


Katherine Marriott said...

Thoroughly agree about the joys of discovering good repertoire anew (and I possess no resident musical polymath so can't even pretend to have got through the obvious stuff yet!). I think there's simply sooooo much art song out there that it's very easy for songs to slip through the net and get forgotten, or go out of fashion and ditto. Have fun with the resurrection!

MG said...

Oh, absolutely! The Severac at least is performed occasionally (and Graham Johnson put out a disk of the songs). Some of it is every bit as good as Debussy, and yet... it seems even less-performed than Caplet and Roussel (two other French "minor" composers who I adore).

But I look at these songs by Royce - they're not unlike Samuel Barber in style, and really rather good - and wonder how he seems to be almost entirely unknown. Mr Musical Polymath thinks he's heard of him in a footnote somewhere as a Broadway arranger in the early part of the 20th Century, but so far... that's all we know. It's going to be a fascinating journey of discovery becoming not only acquainted with the music, but finding out more about the man who created it.