Op. 14 - Three Songs

(2008/2012)

for Baritone and Piano

Text: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Language: English

I. The Sound of the Sea
II. Seaweed
III. The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls

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Program Notes: My Op. 14, Three Songs, is a setting of three poems by American poet and educator, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882). The cycle is linked together through the thematic nature of the text. A native of Portland, Oregon, Longfellow was at arms’ length of the Pacific Ocean and much of his output is connected to a maritime lifestyle which framed his global outlook. The first song, ‘The Sound of the Sea,’ penned by Longfellow between 1873 and 1875, uses the sea as a metaphor for understanding the source of human inspiration. “And inspirations that we deem our own, are some divine foreshadowing and foreseeing of things that are beyond our reason and control,” the baritone belts, pushing the upper limits of their range as if to conjure something beyond their own control. In the second song, “Seaweed,” written circa 1850, Longfellow attempts to express the ‘rare and wonderful nature of poetry as something incredibly precious and valuable which must be derived out of this storm.’   The lilting piano accompaniment throughout creates a sense of stability through chaos which culminates in the broad maestoso section and emerges in a wavy storm throughout the agitato before returning to the opening graceful refrain. The third and final song of the cycle, “The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls,” drafted in 1879, three years before Longfellow’s death, questions the essence of existence. “The little waves, with their soft, white hands, efface the footprints in the sands, and the tide rises, the tide falls,” the baritone sings in a minor key. However, not all hope is lost; at the end of the poem, the traveler returns to the sea as does the tides’ rise and fall but in the splendor of A Major. In the end, it is an examination of the cycle of life and nature and the desire to create harmony between them.

Performance History:

-June 26th, 2012; M3 Classical @ ATX Kitchen; Atwater Village, California – 8PM
-June 11th, 2014; Music at MiMoDa – Paper or Plastik Cafe; West Los Angeles, California – 8PM

 

George N. Gianopoulos

composer