By Lewis Spratlan | For Soprano and Chamber Ensemble | 26′
Title: Of Time and the Seasons
Composer: Lewis Spratlan
Text by: Finnish text (sung in English)
Year Composed: 2001
Instrumentation: For Soprano and Chamber Ensemble
Format: Full Score
Page Size: Letter
Catalog Number: OM0401
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From the composer:
Of Time and the Seasons draws on hundreds of years of Finnish poetry. Songs one and two form a unit and lay out the temporal spectrum of the piece, from the ancient past of the Kalevala (Land of Heroes) to the glaring present of a descent by jetliner into modern Finland. The first introduces the epic’s heroes and sets the great song in motion; the second contemplates the land’s geology and peoples, but cycles back to the “yarns” and magic of the Kalevala.
Song three, the first of a pair of landscapes, evokes a winter evening — utterly still but for a glimpse of a horse and sleigh.
The fourth song thaws into spring, riding the image of a great wave from the sea as it tumbles glistening into a bay. The mystery of the Kalevala invades the scene as a god treads a path along the shore, stirring the surrounding creatures: “everything alive is alert, quaking with fear.”
Song five, the second landscape, portrays the uniquely northern phenomenon of midsummer night: “the secret soul of each created thing…its hidden longing and its silent hope…night clear as day, a landscape without shadow.”
In song six, “The Muster,” a mother’s heartbreak as she contemplates her son at war turns to horror and rage: “there is blood up to the waist / and fog level with the leg / wheels rolling in blood / drums howling in gore.” It is the dead time on earth.
Winter returns in the final song, “Embers.” As they smoulder, pictures change — through the glow a fireside tale.
In the odd-numbered songs, the soprano makes her way through slowly changing but mainly static grids, which evoke the central image of the poem. These are totally chromatic and tightly organized but expressive in intent and structure. Songs two, four, and six, by contrast, are highly changeable, supporting the soprano’s dramatic narrative in more locally apt ways.
In all cases the vocal line is conceived of as heightened speech, saving flights into abstraction for rare and special moments of poetic intensity.
I wish to thank soprano Lucy Shelton and Music Director of the Boston Musica Viva, Richard Pittman, for the opportunity to compose this piece and for the imaginative programmatic vision that helped to shape it.
Commission/Dedication: To Boston Musica Viva and Soprano Lucy Shelton.
Premiere: First performed October 5, 2001 by Lucy Shelton, soprano and Boston Musica Viva, Richard Pittman, conducting.
Recording: This work is recorded on an all Spratlan Albany Records album, When Crows Gather by Sequitur, Lucy Shelton (soprano), and Paul Hostetter (conductor). Listen to an excerpt below, or the embedded Spotify files.