Caro mio ben - Giordani (1753-1794)
Nel cor piu non mi sento - Paisiello (1740-1816)
Composizione da camera per canto e pianoforte - Verdi (1813-1901)
In solitaria stanza (Jacopo Vittorelli)
Perduta ho la pace(Goethe)
Deh, pietoso, oh Addolorata (Goethe)
Five Shakespeare songs - Opus 23 - Quilter (1877-1953)
Fear no more the heat o’ the sun (Cymbeline)
Under the Greenwood Tree (As You Like It)
It was a Lover and his Lass (As You Like It)
Take, O take those lips away (Measure for Measure)
Hey, ho, the Wind and the Rain (Twelfth Night)
Folk-songs of the British Isles
Early One Morning - England arr. Grainger
An Eriskay Love-lilt - Scotland
My Love’s an Arbutus - Ireland
Caro mio ben epitomises the Italian ‘bel canto’ – literally ‘beautiful singing’. The clean vocal line, with accompaniment shadowing the voice, calls for expressive singing using legato, mezza di voce and vocal colour linked to emotion. I will not provide a line by line translation of these Italian songs but a précis of the main thoughts.
My dearest love, without you my heart languishes. Cease your cruelty and harshness and believe me when I tell you that you are my dearest one.
Nel cor piu non mi sento is an attack on Cupid for the distress caused by being in love. ‘You pinch me, tease me, sting me. This is what I have to put up with. Love! you drive me to despair’.
Verdi is of course best known for his operas and setting of the Requiem. However, his chamber music and songs should not be ignored. For those familiar with his operas it is easy to detect echoes, or pre-echoes, of these great works. A common feature of his style is the placing rhythmically of 2 against 3, giving a tension to both words and music: think of Violetta’s dramatic appearance in the third act of La Traviata.
In solitaria stanza – in a lonely room – Jacopo Vittorelli was a minor Italian poet of the nineteenth century. From his Sei Romanze (1838), this is a typical example from anacreontiche ad Irene where the scene is always in a wood, with faun and satyr, who steal the violas and grapes destined for Irene. Hence, the voiceless lips, breast without breath, like a flowerbed in the desert, under the blaze of summer the narcissus faints. Her cries would melt the rocks. She runs along remote paths oppressed by anxiety. ‘Save me o gods, in that beautiful heavenly sky. You would not know how to make another Irene.’
Perduta ho la pace - my peace is gone - probably better know in the version by Schubert, from Faust Part 1, taken from the 'Gretchen am Spinnrad' text, when she is longing for Faust. Rather than set the scene with the piano providing the constant spinning of the wheel (Schubert’s version) Verdi uses the piano to represent the beating heart of Gretchen. She will never again find peace as she feels her grave is near and sadness all around. Her head is forlorn and her soul torn in pieces. She looks from her window for him alone - his lofty walk, noble glance, smiling face and his expression's magic bliss. The touch of his hand and oh, his kiss!
Deh, pietoso, oh Addolorata – Marguerite (Faust Part 2) is praying to Mary, ‘Addolorata’, the woman who above all will understand her grief. ‘Lower your glance to me, whose heart has also been pierced by a sword. Those glances and sighs will become prayers to God, who will temper his pity. I am torn apart. My single tear falls down the window and into the vase. At dawn I picked flowers for you. The first rays of the sun light my room and my pain drives me from my bed. By the grace of your intervention may I be saved from dishonour and death.’
Roger Quilter played a leading role in the first half of the twentieth century as part of ‘The English Musical Renaissance’. Composers fell into two camps, those who followed an unbroken line from Stanford and Parry, through Elgar and Vaughan Williams, blossoming in the songs of for example Ireland, Gurney and Finzi. Quilter belonged to a second group of English musicians known as the ‘Frankfurt School’, who fell under the influence of Wagner and Strauss. From these composers emerge a more adventurous, more chromatic harmonic language. Nevertheless the ‘Englishness’ that is so hard to define is still present, not least in the choice of texts. It was common to hark back to that other ‘Golden Age’ for literary and musical inspiration. Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis and E J Moeran’s part songs are typical examples. Quilter made two sets based on Shakespeare texts as well as making use of Elizabethan lyrics and contemporary verse. Today’s set of five songs provides a variety of moods from the yearning of Take O take those lips away to the simpler love expressed in As You Like It.
It is perhaps fitting to end with folks songs from the British Isles. Percy Grainger was a fellow student of Quilter at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt and, importantly, added to the canon of folk song collected by himself and Cecil Sharp in the early twentieth century. In Grainger’s use of folk song he combined the simplicity of the melody with complex, often tortuous harmony. The lengthy introduction of Early One Morning is for piano alone, the voice joining to give the words of only verse 1, consigned to the role of accompanist in the third version of the melody.
An Eriskay Love Lilt and My Love’s and Arbutus are given in their simple form.
I am grateful to friends Janet Dethick and husband Enzo, Chiaretta Gelli and Jim Kidd for their help with translation from Italian and for Jim’s insight into the Faust legend.
Elizabeth Charlesworth studied music at Newcastle University and later gained Master of Music in research and performance at Sheffield University, specialising in English song of the 20th century. She has a wide repertoire ranging through Baroque: Bach, Handel, and Purcell to Classical – she was one of the first singers to perform Mozart’s ‘Regina Ceoli’ in 1991, shortly after the discovery of the manuscript. She specialises in English song of the 20th century.
Of contemporary music she has sung Karl Jenkins’ ‘The Armed Man’ in Sheffield City Hall and Kenneth Leighton’s setting of the Mass at the Preggio Music Festival in Umbria. She recently gave a recital of Italian arias and excerpts from American musicals at the church of Pieve San Cristoforo in Passignano sul Trasimeno in Italy. Other recent concerts have been at St Marie’s Cathedral, Sheffield, Wakefield Cathedral and St Helen's Church Barnsley.
Hugh was born into a musical family in Sheffield in 1946. He was educated at the De La Salle Boys Grammar School in Sheffield, and then trained to be a teacher at the De La Salle Training College in Middleton, Manchester.
He taught Music at St Peter's Secondary School for 1 year, De La Salle in Sheffield for 7 years and All Saints Catholic High School in Sheffield for 30 years.
Hugh has been connected with several amateur musical theatre companies over the years as chorus member, principal vocalist, chorus master, accompanist and musical director. He is the Organist at the Catholic Cathedral of St Marie in Sheffield (1975 - present).
He loves to play golf and look after his lovely granddaughter - Lucy - but not at the same time!