Stephen Jaffe, Summer Voices (2012).
Instrumentation: Flute/alto flute, Clarinet in Bb, Trumpet in C, Percussion, Harp, Guitar, Violin, Viola, Cello, Mezzo-soprano solo, SATB Chorus or Chamber Chorus. Duration: about 20 minutes.
The thirteen movements comprising Summer Voices alternate between instrumental and choral ones. Following the short Fragmentary Prelude, and beginning with No. 2, the sequence follows clearly between movements deriving from a vocalise in march-like tempo (call it “Alla Marcia”), and a separate narrative using Richard Wilbur’s quiet, intense, poems. The instrumental music is by turns fanciful, lyrical, angular. The complimentary Wilbur poems inhabit a different space, and are set for the chorus and mezzo-soprano with a sense of quiet; miniature still-lifes drawn from nature. Heard in alternation, the two intercut narratives of Summer Voices are never really joined, but have something to say to each other, as a conversation between nature and art may absorb us on a summer evening. The march-like material comes to a culmination in the twelfth movement, prior to the concluding Wilbur section, “The Gifts”, actually the poet’s English translation of a poem by the 19th century French poet Villiers de l’Isle Adam. The gifts are an Ancient ballad, a dew-filled rose, and doves.
Thanks is given the Monadnock Music Festival, where in 2009 an earlier version of “Who Cooks for You?” was presented, with Mr. Wilbur in attendance to read his poem prior to the performance.
Duke Faculty Artists/Collaborators