Figments

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Figments

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song cycle for voice and piano on words of Alice Wirth Gray (2002)

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  • Premiere: 24 April 2002  / Bruno Walter Auditorium, Lincoln Center, New York City  / Paul Sperry, tenor / Daron Hagen, piano
  • Instrumentation: voice and piano
  • Duration: 23'
  • Text: Alice Wirth Gray (E)

1. Gravity
2. Why We Have Cats
3. The End of Daylight Savings Time
4. Zoo Prepares to Adopt Metric System
5. Lines After Marianne Moore
6. Deer in Mist and Almonds
7. The Poetry of Sausages: Morcilla

Paul Sperry

Paul Sperry

Program note

The loopy, wry and ultimately touching poetic voice of Alice Wirth Gray inspired one of Hagen's wittiest and most congenial song cycles.

Opening with pompous majesty, Gravity careens through a quick rondo of tipsy waltz music and declamatory bluster. For Why We Have Cats, the story of a woman who gained pets because her neighbor abandoned her's, Hagen rolls out the suburban lutheran choral music of his youth. The End of Daylight Savings Time prompts a foray into the weird -- a long string of parallel quartal chords paints a foggy nocturnal scene.

The petty bureaucrat announcing the committee's decision regarding Ground Squirrel's request for an extension in Zoo Prepares to Adopt Metric System is treated to high operatic dudgeon -- Hagen alludes to Benjamin Britten's music for the officers in his favourite opera, Billy Budd. The tone turns sincere as Hagen gives a lush chordal accompaniment to Lines After Marianne Moore, which acts as an introduction to the gentle Gymnopaedie of Deer in Mist and Almonds.

Sperry and Hagen made the premiere recording on Albany

Sperry and Hagen made the premiere recording on Albany

The final song, The Poetry of Sausages: Morcilla, is a frank celebration of the earthly pleasures. Brief quotations from Mozart's C Minor Mass and Bach's Saint Matthew Passion are swept away by the boisterous music with which the song starts as the singer proclaims, "For us the songs of the sausage, the sun, the tree, the wine, do fine!"

Commissioned by and dedicated to Paul Sperry, the cycle was first performed by Paul Sperry, accompanied by the composer, at the Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center in New York City on 24 April 2002. Together they recorded the cycle for the Albany label at Town Hall in New York City during winter 2003.

(Banner photo: Alice Wirth Gray)

Anthologized in the Hagen Songbook

Anthologized in the Hagen Songbook