Be My Love: Songs of Love, Lust, and Other Folly (2006)
For soprano, violin, cello, and piano; poems by William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, and
Sir Walter Raleigh; premiered Friday, February 18, 2006, 7:30 P.M. at Follen Church, Lexington, MA; Mary Ann Lanier, soprano; Mona Rashad, violin; Nicole Cariglia, cello, William Merrill, piano; program included works by Foote, Foster, Chadwick, Musto, Chanler, Wilder, Rorem, Barab, Carter, Still, Roy, Beach, and Ives. Commissioned by Mary Ann Lanier for American Classics.
Program notes from premiere:
The core of the cycle examines love through the critical eye of Shakespeare. Songs two and five (Sonnets 18 and 116) explore the power and permanence of true love, while songs three and four (Ophelia's Song from Hamlet and Sonnet 129) discuss issues of lust and its consequences. Serving as bookends to the Shakespeare songs, lighter-hearted Marlowe and Ralegh (or Raleigh) poems begin and end the cycle. Marlowe's “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” extols the joys of love and togetherness, while Sir Ralegh's poem “The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd” slyly rebuffs the shepherd's promises one-by-one, all in the same meter as the Marlowe.
Creating musical settings of poetry is a particularly rewarding challenge for a composer, and this is especially true in setting Shakespeare's sonnets. One must seek to honor the text (archaic; lofty and base in near equal measure; and technically complex in rhyme, meter and meaning) while bringing a personal perspective to the work. In this piece the sonnets receive distinctly different treatments than the strophic Marlowe and Ralegh texts, particularly in the rhythm of the vocal lines as well as in the overall harmonic language.
I would like to acknowledge the actor Dev Luthra for his expert counsel at the beginning of this project. His insight as an interpreter of Shakespeare has been enormously helpful.