The Wonderful Musician (1991)
mezzo, chamber ensemble (picc, fl/alto fl,ob/EH, cl/E-flat cl, bcl, bsn, hn, perc, strings) (17”)
Poem by Anne Sexton
Premiered by the Contemporary Chamber Players, University of Chicago
The Wonderful Musician for mezzo-soprano and chamber ensemble is a setting of the poem of the same name from the collection Transformations by Anne Sexton. The work was premiered by the Contemporary Chamber Players at The University of Chicago with Constance Beavon, soprano and Barbara Schubert, conductor. It was subsequently performed by CUBE with mezzo-soprano Julia Bentley and chamber ensemble conducted by Philip Morehead.
Ms. Morehead writes: “I have long been attracted to the works of Anne Sexton. Her poetry speaks to some of my innermost feelings and calls forth many musical images and designs. I chose to set The Wonderful Musician because of its powerful portrait of music as a seductive force. This poem, with its commentary on modern life in the guise of an old Grimm fairy tale, the Brementown Musicians, has attracted me for a long time, as have all of her Transformations poems. Cluster-type string chords create the atmosphere for this setting and are used to define the form. A jazzy dance motive evokes the urban setting, and a motive influenced by Russian folk song evokes the powerful and sometimes sinister character of the musician. I have chosen to use lots of different woodwind colors to depict the various characters involved in the action of the story: the “womanly” fox, the “greedy” wolf, the hare (“a child of the dark”), the “rabid” dog, “drowse-belly” the snake, and the woodcutter. It is a continuous dramatic setting of a very gripping story, weaving these musical motives together in a variation-like procedure that impels the listener to the final moment.”