Music of Claudio Spies


Music of Claudio Spies

Dylan Thomas' LAMENT and a Complementary ENVOI (1990)

  1. Lament (7:58)

  2. Envoi (2:34)

Nathaniel Watson, baritone; Margaret Kampmeier, piano

  1. Insieme (1994) (1:29)

Elizabeth McNutt, flute; Andrew May, violin

  1. Bagatelle (1970) (2:04)

Alan Feinberg, piano

Five Sonnet-Settings for Vocal Quartet and Piano (1976-77) (14:02)

  1. I - Sonnet XVIII (2:59)

  2. II - Sonnet XXVII and Sonnet XXVIII (5:21)

  3. III - Sonnet CIV (3:13)

  4. IV - Sonnet XLIII (2:47)

Christine Whittlesey, soprano; Johana Arnold, alto; David Ronis, tenor; Jan Opalach, bass; Henry Martin, piano; Claudio Spies, conductor

  1. Beisammen (1995) (5:15)

Matthew Sullivan, Brian Greene, oboes and English Horns

4 Dadivas (1977-80) (10:34)

  1. A Between-Birthdays Bagatelle for Roger Sessions' 80th - 81st (1977) (1:39)

  2. Ein Aggregats-Walzerl (1978) (1:38)

  3. Bagatelle (1979) (5:09) (2:08)

  4. Verschieden (26.IX.1979) (1980) (5:09)

Alan Feinberg, piano

  1. Animula Vagula, Blandula (1964) (1:43)

Christine Whittlesy, soprano; Johana Arnold, alto; David Ronis, tenor; Jan Opolach, bass; Claudio Spies, conductor

  1. Viopiacem Duo for Viola and Keyboard Instruments (1965) (9:42)

Samuel Rhodes, viola; Robert Miller, piano

  1. Impromptu for Piano (1963) (2:21)

Robert Miller, piano

Three Songs on Poems by May Swenson (1969) (7:34)

  1. I - Unconscious Came A Beauty (2:21)

  2. II - Living Tenderly (2:36)

  3. III - The Woods at Night (2:37)

Christine Whittlesey, soprano; Alan Geinberg, piano

Claudio Spies (b. Santiago, Chile, 1925) has lived in the U.S. almost continuously since first coming here to study music in 1942, and has been a U.S. citizen since 1966. He holds degrees from Harvard, has taught there, at Vassar, at Swarthmore, at the Salzburg Seminar in American Studies, and since 1970 has been Professor of Music at Princeton. He has received several awards, including a grant from the Ingram Merrill Foundation, a Brandeis university Creative Arts Award Citation in Music, an award from The National Institute of Arts and Letters, and a Fellowship Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. He has supplied the following remarks concerning the compositions on this compact disc.

Dylan Thomas” LAMENT and a Complementary ENVOI:

My settings of two poems by Dylan Thomas were finished in August, 1990. They are indicative of a continuing preoccupation with varieties of text-setting and, in this particular instance, with the ways in which `irregular' strophic schemes may be reflected musically. (The recurrence of refrains is in itself unproblematic, but their “displaced” recurrence brings interesting problems to the fore, and offers a welcome challenge to the composer.) These poems are rich indeed; both in their dramatic-declarative content, charged with high emotion and semantic abundance, and in subtler, more internal references and allusional refinements, they yield in my attempt upon their setting a musical fabric whose aim is to reflect that richness through far from minimal means. They are dedicated “To those from whom, having taught them, I have learned.”

INSIEME (Italian for “together”) was composed for a young couple who took part in the Second Annual Young Composers' Workshop at Arcosanti, AZ in August, 1994, and was performed there by the dedicatees, who also perform it on this disc. It is the first in a probable series of pieces for two instruments, designed to celebrate - in a variety of languages - the delights both of being together, of perceiving delight in one another and, therefore, of making music a due.

BAGATELLE, lie the Impromptu (its predecessor by seven years), is an independent piece in the sense that it makes no musical attempts to allude to a dedicatee's identity or to a particular time or circumstance. Instead, it is a study in textural differentiations, modified returns, and precisely interrelated tempi.

FIVE SONNET-SETTINGS A long-standing love affair with the vocal quartets of Brahms was bound, finally, to lead me to be tempted, or goaded, into an act of emulation. I succumbed on rereading Shakespeare's sonnets some years back, and should explain that the emulative aspect of my settings for vocal quartet and piano does not pertain to their musical surface - nothing could sound less like Brahms, after all - but resides in that region between hope and despair with which composers attuned to his unique attainments are so familiar.

The sonnets chosen for this work were assembled into four units - here identified by Roman numerals - of two different kinds. While a considerable variety of common threads run through II and IV, no such links are so readily woven between I and III. (Paired musically, as they are both by their subject matter and numerical ordering, Sonnets 27 and 28 are considered to be a single unit). The uncommon intricacy and the abundance of relational ties within and between these poem, as shown in the lexical, semantic and sonic domains, manifested through alliterative, assonantal and illusory riches, suggested - or rather, demanded - a transfer of at least a modicum of such dimensionalities into the musical setting. The FIVE SONNET-SETTINGS, first in an ever-lengthening series of such ventures, were composed between May 1976 and September 1977.

BEISAMMEN Following in the footsteps - both as to occasion, intent, celebration and even shared musical materials - of Insieme, Beisammen (German for “together”) was written for a young couple that is very dear to me. The music unfolds according to the available combinations and soli for the two (plus two) instruments involved.

4 Dadiva The Spanish heading denotes a collection of occasional pieces which share a trait of having temporal circumstances and/or personal identification woven into their musical fabric. The first one, again separated from its preceding Bagatelle (1970) by seven years, was appropriately finished on 7/7/77. The itch appears however, since then to have become annual.

  1. A Between-Birthdays Bagatelle for Roger Sessions' 80th - 81st was composed for a celebration at Princeton, as part of a group of piano pieces by the distinguished composer's students, friends and colleagues which were performed on that occasion. The discerning listener will descry in the opening measures, as well as in their re-registered recurrences, the soggetto cavato in the pitch class succession: D-G-G-D-EB-E-EB-B (=R(e)(s)O(I)-G-ER-S-E-SI…).

  1. Ein Aggregats-Walzerl (1978) refers topically in its 66 measures to various elements adding up to 12 and was written for my daughter Leah on a birthday which, to nobody's surprise, was her twelfth.

  1. Bagatelle (1979) is perplexingly concerned, among other things, with multiples of thirteen. It is also a study in various kinds of harmonics.

  1. Verschieden (26.IX.1979) (1980), true to its name, is distinct in this collection both in having somewhat larger dimensions and in being a lament for my deceased friend Seymour Shifrin. The piece uses the set of Viopiacem, written fifteen years earlier and dedicated in happier times to the same dear friend.

ANIMULA VAGULA, BLNDULA What attracted me to this little poem - it is assumed to be but a fragment - was the sensitive balance and verbal juxtaposition within and among its five component lines, so that in setting it for four unaccompanied voices I felt obliged to support the parallels as well as the contrasts between the first and fourth of these by whatever musical means were at my disposal. The brief composition was intended as a modest memorial to Arnold Schoenberg on what would have been, in 1964 his 90th anniversary, and was first performed in connection with an exhibit of his paintings and drawings, graciously lent by Mrs. Schoenberg, at Swarthmore College.

Duo for Viola and Keyboard Instruments In assembling a “duo for three instruments” - the keyboard-player being required to perform on the harpsichord and the piano - my intention was to provide each of the composition's eight sections with its particular instrumental identity and textural definition. These sections of varying length, make use of the participating instruments according to the following plan: 1) viola, 2) viola and piano, 3) piano, 4) viola and piano, 5) viola, 6) harpsichord, 7) viola and harpsichord, 8) viola, harpsichord and piano. In addition, the sections are balanced by an overall tempo scheme, by musical materials held, and derived, in common, as well as by a network of returns. Viopiacem was composed in 1965. Its title was derived by joining together the opening syllable of each instrument's Italian name. Felicitous aural associations between this compound and works meaning `life', `peace, and `pleasure' were neither unnoticed at the time, nor unintended.

IMPROMPTU For Piano “Composed in March 1963 in celebration of the birth of their first child to dear friends, this piece is subtitled `Cradle music for Adam Henry Zivin' and its purpose is thereby explained.”

THREE SONGS ON POEMS BY MAY SWENSON Composed in the summer of 1969, these songs had their origin primarily in my fondness for May Swenson's spare, well turned verses which perfectly suited their subjects while suggesting certain musical reflections of, and references to, their elegant inner workings. They may also be conjectured to have arisen from an inveterate zoophilia (granted that, as in most of the present instances, the objects of such affinity be of the milder species), and to indulge, moreover, in the discreeter forms of pictorialism.

Dylan Thomas' LAMENT and a Complementary ENVOI were recorded in May 1994; Insieme was recorded in April 1995 and Beisammen was recorded in August 1995. Engineered by James Moses and Robert Ferretti. Produced by Claudio Spies. Recorded at Taplin Auditorium, Princeton University.

Impromptu For Piano, Viopacem: Produced by Carter Harman in 1970.

Five Sonnet-Settings, Animula Vagula, Blandula, Bagatella, Three Songs On Poems by May Swenson, 4 Dadivas: Produced by Carter Harman, recorded by David Hancock in NYC in 1979 and 1980. Original recordings funded by grants from the Princeton University Committee on Resrearch in the Humanities and Social Sciences, the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, and a contribution from and anonymous donor.

5 Davidas published by Boelke-Bomart.

Viopiacem, Bagatelle, and Animula Vagula, Blandula: published by Boosey & Hawkes. A Between-Birthdays Bagatelle and Verschieden: published in Perspectives in New Music, Vol. 16 No. 2 and Vol. 17 No. 2 respectively.

Impromptu published by Elkan-Vogel, Inc.

All other works published by the composer. All works ASCAP.