PREVIOUSLY BROADCAST LIVE: duende with the Curtis 20/21 Ensemble
LUDWIG Pale Blue Dot - PREVIOUSLY BROADCAST LIVE
BERNSTEIN “I Hate Music!” - WEILL “Lost in the Stars” - ROREM “Alleluia”
Sophia Fiuza Hunt, mezzo-soprano
Mikael Eliasen, piano
Performed on Friday, January 15, 2016
Field Concert Hall, Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia
“I Hate Music” is the best-known song from Leonard Bernstein’s cycle of five “Kid Songs.” Bernstein composed both the music and the text for the cycle (which is itself titled “I Hate Music”), and each song is written from the point of view of a fictional ten-year-old girl, Barbara, expressing her views and thoughts about the world. In the third song of the cycle, Barbara exclaims that she hates music! But, she quickly changes her mind, coyly admitting that she likes to sing. Writing from the perspective of a child, Bernstein cleverly captures a sense of childlike fancy and fickleness, while simultaneously commenting on the sometimes-frustrating spectacle of the classical music world. Barbara reveals that while she likes to sing, she associates the term “music” with stuffy customs like men in tails and bored audiences in dark rooms, images that rob music of its joyful nature. Bernstein creates a perfect portrait of a child impatiently reminding adults that music is meant to be fun.
If Bernstein’s song is all about fun, Kurt Weill’s musical Lost in the Stars paints a much more serious picture of loss and self-doubt. The musical tells the story of Reverend Stephen Kumalo, a black Anglican priest in South Africa. Lost in the Stars draws its name from the final song of the first act, which represents the major existential question of the work. The scene takes place after Stephen’s son, Absalom, has killed one of Stephen’s friends, a white man, in a failed robbery attempt. Stephen faces a crisis of faith. As a priest, he has often contemplated the story of how God made the earth special among all the heavenly bodies and pledged to watch over it and his people. But in this dark time, he doubts his faith, and wonders if God has abandoned him, leaving the earth, and everyone on it, lost among the stars.
Juxtaposed with two songs driven by poignant texts—one fanciful and one heartbreaking—Ned Rorem’s “Alleluia” is something different entirely. Rorem quite nearly takes the text out of the equation, setting only the single word, alleluia, for the entirety of the song. Rorem’s setting is a showpiece for the voice, mixing exciting jumps and vocal fireworks with beautiful lyrical lines. Even when working with a single word, Rorem displays his signature commitment to expressing the meaning of the text, deftly capturing the spirit of awe and celebration traditionally expressed by exclamations of “Alleluia!” in religious texts throughout Western history.