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Richard Strauss: Ständchen

It’s a day for favorites: My favorite composer, Richard Strauss, my favorite song, “Ständchen”, and my favorite singer, Kathleen Battle. As soon as I declare a favorite, my mind immediately thinks of a dozen other “favorites,” but I don’t intend to be dishonest! You music lovers know what I mean. There are always many favorites.

But this song…. my goodness, this song makes me dizzy in the best way. I love the liveliness of the piano, shimmering like moonlight on leaves or a love-stricken heart, flowing radiantly underneath a buoyant and lyrical vocal line. Kathleen Battle is, in my mind, the ultimate interpreter. Her light and youthful sound, breathtakingly beautiful as it soars through Strauss’s expert writing, captures the innocence and excitement of this secret meeting of lovers. Yes, I am using many superlatives, because this piece deserves it.

Please give way to rapture and let the music carry all your worries away… after all, that is what we need most from music sometimes.

Gabriela Lena Frank: El Nascimento de Cifar

I started this weeks posts talking about the plight of women composers, especially non-white composers, as exemplified by Gabriela Lena Frank. But we haven’t heard her music yet. She is writing a lot for orchestras right now. Her Requiem will be premiered in Houston in a few months, the NY Philharmonic recently presented her new Viola Concerto, and there are more new pieces on the way.

She also knows how to write well for the voice. I’m confident that Gabriela’s example to other young women seeking to become composers, and her advocacy for women and composers of color will have an important influence on the folks who present new music and commission new composers. One of her not-yet-completed cycles already has a dozen or so songs that I am fond of.

Songs of Cifar and the Sweet Sea is the setting of an epic poem by Pablo Antonio Cuadra. The protagonist, a sailor named Cifar is destined to sail the greatest lake in Nicaragua. All his life lessons, challenges, and triumphs are a result of his life on the water. It all begins with Cifar’s birth. Here is “El Nascimento de Cifar” by Gabriela Lena Frank. Andrew Garland is the excellent baritone. Warren Jones is at the piano.

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