Peter Lieberson, Pablo Neruda, and Songs of Sorrow and Love

Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and Peter Lieberson(Photo: NPR - courtesy of the artist)
Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and Peter Lieberson(Photo: NPR - courtesy of the artist)

Composer Peter Lieberson‘s  Neruda Songs are five poems by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda composed early in 2005, and dedicated to the composer’s wife, mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson.

She had been ill with cancer for several years, and the premieres of Neruda Songs, with the Boston Symphony and The Cleveland Orchestra, were her final appearances before her death in July, 2006 at the age of fifty-two.

Four years later, Lieberson has written a follow-up. No, that’s too trite. He has written another exquisite collection of songs for voice and orchestra of Neruda’s poetry called Songs of Sorrow and Love. The premiere was given last week, with the Boston Symphony conducted by Jayce Ogren. Here’s a clip of the premiere performance, with one of my favorite artists, the superb Canadian baritone Gerald Finley:

I rejoice in Finley’s warm, burnished voice, and these new songs by Peter Lieberson seems a perfect fit.

The composer himself has struggled with cancer in recent years, but his ability to write gratefully and to move audiences-not to mention his sensitive ear for Neruda’s poetry, remain undimmed. I look forward to the forthcoming recording and DVDS of  Songs of Sorrow and Love.

Here’s the final song of the aforementioned Neruda Songs:

Amor mio, si muero y tu no mueres

My love, if you die and I don’t/let’s not give grief an even greater field/No expanse is greater than where we live:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgiMe1rMyFc

In her last years, as she struggled with illness, (Lorraine) repeatedly sang texts that spoke of suffering and mortality, but there was nothing self-indulgent in her delivery of them. No subject is, after all, more universal than the fear of death. Very often, her message seemed to be: Have no fear—Alex Ross

Comments
  • http://jazzolog.blogspot.com/ Richard Carlson

    The recording by Lorraine Lieberson of the first set never fails to move me to tears. Recommended highly to anyone who reads this entry.