A guide to performance practice: Sonnets from the Portuguese by Libby Larsen

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Polly Butler Cornelius (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Robert Bracey

Abstract: The purpose of this study is to present a performance guide to the interpretation of Libby Larsen's Sonnets from the Portuguese (1991). Singers and pianists can find ways that are sensitive to and expressive of the poetry when performing these songs. Thorough study and preparation of the poetry and music, as well as understanding the compositional style of the composer, contribute to a scholarly and artistic performance of these art songs. The result is a performance that can create a strong emotional impact through expression of the true meaning of the text. When preparing for a performance of this song cycle, three distinguishing fundamental elements that must be considered are the original singer, text, and language. Arleen Augér (1939-1993), world-renowned soprano, commissioned Larsen to compose Sonnets from the Portuguese. Larsen set to music the poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning in collaboration with Augér and conductor, Joel Revzen to compose this song cycle. Initially, Larsen composed eight songs in this cycle. The remaining two songs have been used in other formats. "Beloved, Thou Hast Brought Me Many Flowers" is now part of a song cycle for mezzo soprano, and "Because thou hast the powers" is part of Larsen's String Symphony movement, "Elegance." Originally orchestrated, the piano reduction is performed most frequently and it is the piano-vocal version that is the focus of this document. This study provides an examination of the poetry and music. It also explores the composer's methods and compositional process with a focus on the inception of the cycle and its musical expression of the text. Written from the perspective of a performer under the guidance of the composer, this comprehensive study will serve as a resource for singers and accompanists planning future performances of this cycle. It is the task of the singer and pianist to coordinate and bring to fruition Larsen's musical and interpretive demands. Several methods were used in writing this study: personal interviews with the composer, close readings of the sonnets, and performing the cycle. Information was drawn from published materials, secondary sources relating to the topic, the poetry, the score, a recording, and personal insight as a performer. The study is organized into an Introduction and four chapters including Understanding the Poet, The Composer, Larsen's Compositional Approach and Performance Analysis, and an Insight to Sonnets from the Portuguese.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2011
Art song, Libby Larsen, Song cycle, Sonnets, Vocal literature
Larsen, Libby. $t Sonnets from the Portuguese
Song cycles
Vocal duets with piano

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