Canticles for Jerusalem (Fine, Vivian)
Maria Tegzes, soprano and Geoffrey Burleson, piano
Vivian Fine Estate
|Work Title||Canticles for Jerusalem|
|Year/Date of Composition||1983|
|First Performance||1989-04-16, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
|Librettist||Judah Halevi (transl. by Robert Alter and T. Carmi), Yehuda Amichai (transl. by Harold Schimmel), Psalm 137 from the Old Testament|
|Language||English and Hebrew|
|Average Duration||15 minutes|
|Composer Time Period||Modern|
|Instrumentation||mezzo-soprano and piano|
Commissioned by Stephanie Friedman and Lois Brandynne
Fine titles the Canticles a song cycle, a new term for her. There are five songs using various Hebrew texts in translations, but together they form a whole, with the first song, “My heart’s in the East,” describing the desire to return to Jerusalem. The song begins with a beautiful unaccompanied melismatic vocal phrase whose head motif, C-B flat-G flat and other pitches, are re-used in this and later songs. The piano provides the unity and dramatic expression for the cycle.
…The second song, “This year I traveled far,” describes the visit to Jerusalem, which is coupled with interior suffering: “but the howl I heard within is still from my Judean desert.”….The third song, “Light against the Tower of David,” is marked “Joyous,” which is portrayed by the accompaniment’s rapid figuration. At times segments of the figuration are heard as a slower moving vocal melody. Even more unity is achieved when part of a phrase from song two, originally unaccompanied, is reset with new text and accompaniment …The fourth song, “By the rivers of Babylon,” is Psalm 137 and forms a contrast in the cycle. Strummed chords on the piano strings evoke the harps mentioned in the psalm….The final song, “Ode to Zion,” is recapitulatory. Phrase segments from previous vocal lines and dyads from the opening accompaniment to “My heart’s in the East” return. A prominent melody from the last song later becomes part of a piano interlude and an ending canonic passage. Although each song is focused upon a particular expression, such as longing or light, Fine treated the five songs as part of a whole rather than as four or five independent songs, as in her earlier groupings.
- —Heidi Von Gunden, The Music of Vivian Fine, Scarecrow Press, 1999
Fine later made an instrumental version of this work. See: http://imslp.org/wiki/Canticles_from_the_Other_Side_of_the_River_(Fine,_Vivian).