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Carter's Of Rewaking premiere in Chicago

Thursday, May 29 marks the world premiere of Elliott Carter’s new orchestral song cycle Of Rewaking. Daniel Barenboim conducts mezzo-soprano Michelle De Young and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; the program at Orchestra Hall is repeated on May 30 and 31.

Says Carter, “For 75 years – since my college days – I have been fascinated by the poetry of William Carlos Williams, the great American poet (and doctor-pediatrician). So I chose three of his visionary poems for Of Rewaking, a song cycle for mezzo-soprano and orchestra, as a gift to Daniel Barenboim. The score was commissioned by The Royal Philharmonic Society of London, and was written during 2002.”

Of Rewaking contains Carter’s first songs with orchestral accompaniment since A Mirror on Which to Dwell in 1975. Struggle, surrender, and renewal are the new cycle’s principal themes. In the first song, The Rewaking, Williams’s text – “Sooner or later/we must come to the end/of striving” – unfolds in Carter’s tender, upwardly-yearning cantabile line. In Lear, Williams asserts the futility of striving against an unconquerable force. Carter engages in a rare bit of tone-painting: at the lines, “We/yield and are made quiet by its fury,” he unleashes a hail of sharp, fortissimo tutti attacks. The mercurical Shadows ends the triptych with an assertion of imagination’s power to renew the soul.

Founded 1813 in London, The Royal Philharmonic Society’s activities focus on young musicians, composers, and the creation of new music. Works commissioned by the Society include Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Mendelssohn’s “Italian” Symphony. Society Gold Medal and Honorary Membership recipients have included Brahms, Gounod, Horowitz, Bernstein, and Carter, who received a Gold Medal in 1995.

Plans are underway for European performances of Of Rewaking in 2004.

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