Saira Frank, soprano
Ruben, Piirainen, piano
1. Nature, the gentlest mother
2. There came a wind like a bugle
3. Why do they shut me out of Heaven?
4. The world feels dusty
5. Heart, we will forget him
6. Dear March, come in!
7. Sleep is supposed to be
8. When they come back
9. I felt a funeral in my brain
10. I've heard an organ talk sometimes
11. Going to Heaven!
12. The Chariot
Like the Piano Sonata, these songs are often performed because singers know their value, though less often as a whole cycle. Which is too bad because it is a very effective cycle, poems by about America's greatest poet set to music by one of the greatest American composers. I think there is a lot in common between them, their ability to find deep and disturbing and new insights into life through common seeming material, high among those. Both are frequently misunderstood because of their use of what can easily be mistaken as the superficially conventional aspects of life and artistic material. Both were entirely more than the superficial reading or hearing of their work could find.
I believe the more familiar of these poems, The Chariot, Going to Heaven, I Felt a Funeral in My Brain were probably a lot less familiar when Copland set them. I have a feeling they weren't so frequently found in school anthologies of that time. I also believe he used the earlier editions of her poems instead of the Johnson edition of them that was what my generation read but I don't own the score to these. Not yet.
I like this performance a lot, I wish the recording were of a better quality because I suspect she pronounced the texts better than it sounds. It makes me wonder if the great master of English articulation, Joan Morris ever performed them. This kind of recording, of fine performers you would otherwise never hear or know about, is what I like about the internet the most. Let's hope for better sound fidelity, soon.