For soprano, cello and computer generated sounds ; 2001 ; Duration ca. 15 minutes 30 seconds

I have admired soprano Pamela Jordan Schiffer's musical artistry for many years, and this piece was composed with her voice very much in mind. The haunting poems of Anna Akhmatova (1889-1996) say much in few words. Recurring themes within her verse often convey to me dual, out-of-time perspectives -- of youth and age, of vulnerability and worldly irony, or of anticipation and bittersweet recollection. While frequently triggered by what Akhmatova called "meetings" (complex, evolving relationships, often with an absent, disappointing lover) the scope of Akhmatova's vision is broad rather than introspective, and metaphorical parallels to the travails of twentieth century Russia, in particular, of humanity in general, are ever present.

These intertwining perspectives suggested to me the concept of interwoven double songs. Within the first and third songs of this cycle, one prerecorded narrated and sung poem (the voice of soprano Tiffany Blake) that unfolds within the computer part "envelopes," "swirls around" or comments upon the poem sung live. The cello line and the "instrumental" portions of the computer part ebb and flow between these mirroring voices and perspectives. Within the middle song, the more virtuosic cello part assumes the alter ego role.

PDF score excerpt
This exceprt is page 1 of the score, the beginning of the first of the three songs. The boxed IN, WH, and FS "notes" within the soprano part denote:

IN: a rapid, explosive inhalation
WH: a whisper
FS: finger snap

MP3 audio excerpt
This excerpt, from a concert performance by Pamela Jordan Schiffer, soprano and Phillip von Maltzahn, is from the conclusion of the third song.
Duration : One minute 53 seconds; size 3.5 MB ; encoding 256 kBit stereo

This work was premiered by Pamela Jordan Schiffer and cellist Lori Barnett on the Contemporary Music Forum series at the Corcoran Gallery in Washngton D.C. on April 5, 2001. It has subsequently been performed in Rochester and elsewhere.

    The five translated poems in Akhmatova Songs are from "The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova", translated by Judith Hemschemeyer, edited and introduced by Roberta Reeder. Expanded Edition (Zephyr Press, 1997). Copyright 1990, 1992, 1997 by Judith Hemschemeyer. Reprinted by permission of Zephyr Press. I am grateful to Leora Zeitlin, Editorial Co-Director of the Zephyr Press, for her gracious assistance in helping me to obtain the rights to set these poems.
For performance information on this work please send e-mail to:
Composer aschindler@esm.rochester.edu

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