song cycle for voice and piano (1983-2002)
- Premiere: 11 December 2002 / Auditório do Departamento de Comunicação e Arte da Universidade de Aveiro, Portugal / Claire Vangelisti, soprano / Alfredo Carerra, piano
- Instrumentation: voice and piano
- Duration: 18'
- Text: Mark Strand, Christina Rosetti, Richard McCann, Gwen Hagen, Mark Skinner, Stephen Sandy (E)
- A Suite of Appearances (Mark Strand)
- Ferry Me Across the Water (Christina Rosetti)
- Ghost Letter (Richard McCann)
- 'I'll sing a song to my love' (Gwen Hagen)
- Prayer to Sparrow in Two Seasons (Mark Skinner)
- The Second Law (Stephen Sandy)
- Psalm 150
Letting Go was assembled from songs composed over the course of nearly two decades and completed as a cycle during the winter of 2002 in New York City. It consists of seven songs, all of which deal with love and death. A Suite of Appearances was completed on 1 November 1993 at the Villa Serbelloni, in Bellagio, Italy, while Ferry Me Across the Water was finished a decade earlier on 25 October 1983 in Philadelphia. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City commissioned Ghost Letter for famed tenor Robert White to premiere at the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium there on 17 November 2001. It was completed in New York City on 22 October 2001. 'I'll sing a song to my love' was composed in Philadelphia and completed on Christmas Day in 1983. The poem is about my father; it was taken from an entry in my mother's diary from the early 1950's. Prayer to Sparrow in Two Seasons was composed at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and finished on 9 January 1987. The Second Law was commissioned by Joy in Singing as part of its 'Songs for a New Millenium' project. It was written at Yaddo and completed on 15 July 1999. I first sang it (accompanied by David Del Tredici) for a gathering that included the poet, on the evening it was finished. The world premiere took place at the Merkin Recital Hall in New York City on 25 April 2001. Psalm 150 was composed in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin and completed on 28 December 1985. It first served as a wedding salutation for Kristie Foell and Chris Williams. The world premiere of Letting Go as a complete cycle took place on December 11th, 2002 at the Auditório do Departamento de Comunicação e Arte da Universidade de Aveiro, Portugal. Claire Vangelisti was accompanied by Alfredo Carerra.
Elem Eley and J.J. Penna released a recording (see CD cover, left) of the cycle on Albany [Troy1050] in 2008.
— Daron Hagen, 2003
[Hagen] means business when it comes to song-writing, and it's comforting to know that the American art song is in good hands other than just those of Ned Rorem's. Daron Hagen, I know, won't set a song if he hasn't memorized the lyrics.... [This] cycle is heartbreaking, ending with a setting of Psalm 150 that seems written to be sung with desperation--trying to let go by praising God in spite of the circumstance, Suite of Appearances has a recurring figure in the piano part, two G's repeated an octave apart, that forms the backbone of the song; it is sometimes on its own, sometimes with harmonies, and as alluring as can be. The repeated G's return in the other songs in the set, too. The harmonies in 'Ferry Me Across the Water' wander in a way that reminds me of Schoenberg and shift subtly into a conventional tonality at the end; Hagen does this enviably well.
— Stephen Estep, American Record Guide, January-February, 2009
(Banner photo: Claire Vangelisti)