The Passing of the Year
We were pleased to feature the music of British composer Jonathan Dove in our spring concert. Utah Chamber Artists has performed his music on several occasions and recognized the boldness, brilliance, and freshness of his work. We have enjoyed performing his work so much that Barlow decided to dedicate an entire concert to his compositions.
“The Passing of the Year”
The composer describes the work as follows:
“The Passing of the Year is a song cycle for double chorus and piano and was commissioned by The London Symphony Chorus in 2000. The seven poems that I have set in this piece make up three ‘movements’. The first looks forward to summer, beginning with a line from William Blake (“O Earth, O Earth return!”). “The narrow bud” comes from Blake’s “To Autumn”, but is a description of summer; the rapid questions of “Answer July” suggest the quickening of the senses, the excitement of everything bursting into life, and summer’s triumphant arrival. The second section follows the passing of summer. It begins in sultry heat, with a song from the opening scene of “David and Bethsabe” (“Hot sun, cool fire”): a girl bathing in a spring feels the power and danger of her beauty. The section ends with the sense of mortality that Autumn brings: “Adieu! farewell earth’s bliss”, from “Summer’s Last Will and Testament”, heralds the death of summer. The cycle ends in winter, on New Year’s Eve, with a passage from Tennyson’s “In Memoriam”.
This song cycle is dedicated to the memory of my mother, who died too young.”
“In Beauty May I Walk”
This piece was composed as a gift for Anthony Whitworth Jones, a great supporter of Dove’s. It is a short, simple setting of an anonymous American Navajo text. The words were almost untranslatable, but poet Jerome K Rothenberg has done an admirable job in giving it meaning. Dove’s musical setting begins with a chant-like phrase sung by the basses and then blossoms as the other voices enter. The results are beautifully haunting.
The Piano Quintet (2009) was commissioned for the Spitalfields Festival, where Dove had been artistic director from 2001-6. He describes it this way:
“I wanted to write music independent of outside sources. So this Piano Quintet has no programme or hidden story…”
Although Dove claims the piece is non-programmatic, some find that it has a “visual and atmospheric and builds to a climax of almost cinematic intensity”.
“Who Killed Cock Robin”
This piece is based on the well-known children’s English nursery rhyme that tells the story of Cock Robin and his friends who gather round when he dies. Over the years various tunes were set to this text from sing-song melodies to mournful folk songs.
Dove’s version was commissioned by the Welsh Amateur Music Federation of the 10th anniversary of the National Youth Choir of Wales. It is a clever and complex treatment of the text that uses word painting and other musical tools to evoke the various birds in the story.