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Classical Music

Music In The Making: Musical Poetry Or Poetic Music?

Celebrating poetry from around the world with classics by Mahler, Dukas, and others!


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On this week’s episode of Music in the Making, we celebrate the beginning of National Poetry Month with music inspired by poems old and new!

Earl Kim – Three Poems in French
Syzygy New Music at Rice: Susanne Mentzer, mezzo-soprano; Derek Powell, violin; Meghan Nenninger, violin; James Dunham, viola; SeHee Kim, cello
Duncan Recital Hall

Paul Verlaine and Charles Baudelaire were among the most successful poets in nineteenth-century France, and their work has been set to music by numerous composers since their time. This setting by Korean-American composer Earl Kim uses Verlaine’s “En sourdine” and “Colloque sentimental,” and Baudelaire’s “Recueillement.”

Franz Liszt – Sonetto 104 del Petrarca
Nancy Weems, piano
Moores Opera House

This piece originally began as one of three vocal settings of Petrarch‘s poetry, but Liszt later adapted this movement for solo piano as part of his Années de pèlerinage (Years of Pilgrimage), a massive set of three piano suites inspired by his travels in Europe. Naturally, this sonnet setting is in the second suite, Italy.

Gustav Mahler, arr. Erwin Stein – Symphony No. 4 – IV. Sehr behaglich
Moores School Faculty; Melissa Givens, soprano; Franz Anton Krager, conductor
Moores Opera House

Das himmlishe Leben,” about a child’s perspective on Heaven, is a poem (originally titled “Der Himmel hängt voll Geigen”) from Des Knaben Wunderhorn, a collection of German folk poems that Mahler set to music. This particular setting originated as its own piece, but the composer later used it as the origin of his Fourth Symphony, placing it as the finale to that work and including some of its material in the preceding movements.

Eric Whitacre, arr. Jamey Kollar – Sleep
Moores School Percussion Ensemble
Moores Opera House

One of Eric Whitacre’s most famous choral pieces, Sleep, began as a setting of Robert Frost’s “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.” Unfortunately, the composer never actually secured permission to use the poem (which he assumed was free game), and the estate is not allowing it to be used until it becomes public domain in 2038. So, Whitacre asked his friend Charles Anthony Silvestri to write a new text that would fit the music Whitacre already set to the original poem.

Paul Dukas – The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Moores School Symphony Orchestra; Franz Anton Krager, conductor
Moores Opera House

Composer Paul Dukas
Public Domain
Composer Paul Dukas

This piece might conjure up one particularly vivid image: Mickey Mouse in a wizard’s (sorcerer’s) hat enchanting brooms to do his bidding until they get out of control and flood his master’s work space. Yes, the animated sequence from Disney’s Fantasia and the music of Paul Dukas follow the original story of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s poem quite closely!

This episode originally aired Sunday, April 3rd, 2016. Catch Music in the Making every Sunday at 7:06 PM on Classical 91.7.

Joshua Zinn

Joshua Zinn

Producer, Houston Matters

Joshua is a producer for Houston Matters on News 88.7 as well as the host of Encore Houston on Houston Public Media Classical. He joined Houston Public Media as a radio intern in 2014 and became a full-time announcer the following year. Now he prepares segments and occasionally records interviews...

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