Notes and Editorial Reviews
Beyond Circumference. 3 Poems of Marcia Willieme. The Marigold Heart
Georgine Resick (sop); Warren Jones (pn)
BRIDGE 9227 (61:21
Text and Translation)
Leo Smit’s music deserves greater currency, and it is typical of the enterprising label Bridge Records to do the honors. This disc of song cycles reveals just how skillful a composer Smit (1921–1999) really was. His own introduction to himself is dated April 1999 and is like reading a Who’s Who of 20th-century music.
Kabalevsky “taught him
” (his own words); Stravinsky, Copland, Bartók, Shapero, and Foss all had paths that crossed Smit’s in one way or another. No wonder he wrote with such assurance.
The present disc is called “Song Cycles.”
(“18 Songs about Death, Faith and Immortality”) is actually Cycle 4 of Smit’s huge
The Ecstatic Pilgrimage
(1988–1991), settings of the poetry of the great Emily Dickinson, while
The Marigold Heart
(“15 Songs about Love, Loss and Renunciation”) comprises Cycle 5. There is no doubt that, as we listen, we experience this is a master at setting poetry. Smit’s response to the texts is that of an almost total identification. Georgine Resick sings with real affinity to both composer and poet. Her voice is well controlled and very pleasing in the lower to middle dynamics (there is something very conspiratorial about the way she delivers the first poem on the disc, almost as if it were for the listener’s ears only). Warren Jones, too, is unfailingly musical. Dickinson’s poems must be incredibly difficult to set. They are frequently elliptical in meaning and, oh my, those dashes! Smit’s achievement is to convey the essential intimacy of utterance that lies at the poetry’s heart by using a harmonic language that is intrinsically beautiful and essentially American. Resick’s voice is pure, but I could do with a little more variety of tone (a failing her excellent pianist does not suffer from). The slightly dry recording does not help (it could have used a little more depth and possibly the smallest addition of reverb). Of the first set, maybe the most effective is the 10th, “After great pain, a formal feeling comes,” with its tramping piano part; or then again maybe it is the hypnotically beautiful 13th, “I went to Heaven.” But part of the difficulty of finding favorites is the consistency of it all. This is not to imply any sense of tedium; rather, one must give full attention, poetry in hand, to what is going on. This is subtle music. The granitic chords of the final song of
, climactic in purpose, make a huge impact precisely because of the acres of subtlety that preceded them.
The two larger cycles are separated by the seven-minute
Three Poems of Marcia Willieme
, which post-dates the Dickinson settings. The harmonic language is possibly a little more astringent, particularly in the animated second poem, “Bus Tour: Boston in the Rain.” Marcia Willieme’s poetry is fascinating, and so different on the surface from Dickinson’s.
The return to the world of Dickinson for
The Marigold Heart
is aurally obvious. The sound world is immediately warmer, more inviting—like arriving home, one might say. Again, it is well-nigh impossible to isolate highlights, as this boils down more to what resonates with the listener more than to variations in quality of performance or of composition. “There came a Day at Summer’s full” is one which stood out for me, but that probably tells you more about me than it does about Smit. The bullet-like piano chords of the next setting, “My life had stood—a loaded gun” stand in highest contrast. There is much beauty here, too (try the brief “Extol thee—should I?”), a beauty which even suffuses the more turbulent songs (“Tide divine—is mine!”).
The booklet for the present issue is almost worth the price of the entire product. There are many photos of the composer (usually, but not always, with somebody famous), plus informed writing by Morris Grossman and Nils Vigeland (as well as two pages by the composer himself). Full texts are also included. Incidentally, there is a complementary issue with Rosalind Rees as soprano and the composer himself on the piano on Bridge 9080, which presents 33 Dickinson settings.
FANFARE: Colin Clarke
Works on This Recording
The Marigold Heart by Leo Smit
Georgine Resick (Soprano),
Warren Jones (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1989; USA
Length: 20 Minutes 7 Secs.
Beyond Circumference: I. The Sun Kept Setting, Setting, Still
Beyond Circumference: II. I Died for Beauty, But Was Scarce
Beyond Circumference: III. If Course, I Prayed
Beyond Circumference: IV. Twas the Old, Road, Through Pain
Beyond Circumference: V. I Shall Know Why, When Time Is Over
Beyond Circumference: VI. Of Tolling Bell I Ask the Cause?
Beyond Circumference: VII. I Saw No Way, The Heavens Were Stitched -
Beyond Circumference: VIII. I Heard a Fly Buzz, When I Died
Beyond Circumference: IX. Go Slow, My Soul, To Feed Thyself
Beyond Circumference: X. After Great Pain, A Formal Feeling Comes
Beyond Circumference: XI. I've Seen a Dying Eye
Beyond Circumference: XII. At Least, To Pray, Is Left, Is Left
Beyond Circumference: XIII. I Went to Heaven
Beyond Circumference: XIV. The First Day's Night Had Come
Beyond Circumference: XV. We Dream, It Is Good We Are Dreaming
Beyond Circumference: XVI. What If I Say I Shall Not Wait!
Beyond Circumference: XVII. That Such Have Died Enable Us
Beyond Circumference: XVIII. Departed, To the Judgment
Three Poems of Marcia Willieme: I. And All the Air Is Still
Three Poems of Marcia Willieme: II. Bus Tour: Boston In the Rain
Three Poems of Marcia Willieme: III. In the Celestial Computer
The Marigold Heart: I. So Well That I Can Live Without
The Marigold Heart: II. What Shall I Do, It Whimpers So
The Marigold Heart: III. There Came A Day At Summer's Full
The Marigold Heart: IV. My Life Had Stood, A Loaded Gun
The Marigold Heart: V. Extol Thee, Could I? Then I Will
The Marigold Heart: VI. Me Prove It Now, Whoever Doubt
The Marigold Heart: VII. Title Divine, Is Mine!
The Marigold Heart: VIII. There Is a Pain, So Utter
The Marigold Heart: IX. That First Day, When You Praised Me, Sweet
The Marigold Heart: X. Wild Nights, Wild Nights!
The Marigold Heart: XI. Is It Too Late to Touch You, Dear?
The Marigold Heart: XII. I Reason, Earth Is Short
The Marigold Heart: XIII. A Wife, At Daybreak I Shall Be
The Marigold Heart: XIV. The Face I Carry With Me, Last
The Marigold Heart: XV. I Have No Life But This
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