Sparrows featuring Lori Schulman - Monday's Ensemble Monterey Download

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Dear Ensemble Monterey Friends - Today's composition is by an eminent, living American composer. Joseph Schwantner was born in Chicago in 1943, and is respected as one of the "greats." In addition to his native compositional career he has served on the Juilliard, Eastman and Yale faculties. He is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Schwantner is a member of what what once called the "catholic" school of composition. In this piece you will hear him make free use of many compositional styles which precede out time. Gregorian chant, baroque polyphony, renaissance dances, lush romantic gestures and striking 20TH Century harmonies are all at home in this work.

Sparrows,was written in 1979 for the Twentieth Century Consort. It is scored for an instrumental ensemble and soprano soloist. The text consists of fifteen haiku by the eighteenth-century Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa. Here are the texts:

1. Come then, come hither;
Play your games and bide with me,
Motherless Sparrow.

2. The plum tree blossoms;
The nightingale sings;
But I am alone.

3. The autumn wind!
Even the mountain’s shadow
Trembles before it.

4. Through this world of ours
The butterfly’s existence –
Such a hastening!

5. Wild Geese, hush your cry!
Wherever you go it is the same –
The floating world!

6. A note from the bell –
A cry from the waterfowl –
And the night darkens!

7. Heedless that the tolling bell
Marks our own closing day –
We take this evening cool.

8. The night is dim
But over the falls that rain with wine
Stands the moon

9. What loveliness!
Seen through a crack in the wall
The River of Heaven!

10.By night sacred music
And into the flare of the torches
Float crimson leaves

11.Radiant moon!
Tonight, must you too
Hasten thither?

12.And, when I die,
Be thou guardian of my tomb,

13.Cry not, insects,
For that is a way
We all must go –

14.A glimpse of the Moon –
A note from the Nightingale –
And the night’s over!

15.Greet the new sky
With consonance of harmonies –
Right to the Sparrows!

As you will hear, Schwantner is a supreme colorist. He does not attempt any literal transcription of these poems, but

takes us into a dream-like state to probe their inner essence. In addition to playing their instruments, the musicians also sing and play tuned water glasses. These exotic timbres add to the surreal, dream state of this wonderful composition.

Sparrows is one of the most challenging compositions we have ever played. It is also one of the most beautiful works I know. This performance is from 2014 and features Lori Schulman as the soprano soloist. As you will hear, her part is even more demanding than the instrumental parts and she absolutely nailed it. There are not many sopranos around the country who could make this piece come to life, but she absolutely did.

Sparrows is about a 20-minute work in one movement. I urge you to set aside some quite time and listen to it in depth. You will be richly rewarded.

Until Wednesday -- Yours in Music,

John Anderson