(from Michael Barrett)
This week’s “Song of the Day” tribute to Lorraine Hunt Lieberson concludes with two selections from Four Hindu Poems by Maurice Delage (1879-1961). It is from a live performance in 1997 at the Moab Music Festival. The songs are “Un Sapin isole” (text by Heine), and “Si vous pensez” (Bhartrihari). One of the most harmonically exotic and melodically delicious group of songs ever written, Delage stays within the French traditions of Dubussy and Ravel, but with some unconventional twists.
In “Un Sapin isole” the bent pizzicato on the cello imitating a sitar, creates the craggy isolation of the Fir Tree on its arid, snowy, freezing northern mountain. The viola seems to embody the longing of the suffering Palm Tree in the distant orient, burning in the tropics. And the musical color of the Fir Tree dreaming of the Palm is absolutely ravishing. On the words “he dreams”, possibility and hope suddenly seem within reach. The extended vocal cadenza at the end seems written for Lorraine. Her musical imagination and vocal skill captures something otherworldly.
The text of “Si vous pensez” is very like many latin love songs we’ve played over the years: Just thinking of her causes pain. Her eyes! Her touch! It drives you mad. Had can she be called beloved? Delage creates a sense of tormented eroticism through a flute solo, followed by the most dense and probing harmonies. It’s like a compendium of the best of Wagner and Ravel, all in two minutes.
Wishing you all a wonderful July 4th holiday. God Bless America. And God Bless the memory of Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, who continues to grace our lives with the beauty of her performances.