Friday, September 22, 2017

Summer's-End-Pieces - Yehudi Wyner's Exeunt

Yeah, yeah, Summer technically ended yesterday, but as it's still a nice day, and the weekend is starting, there's no problem with one more article, right?  I may also have made the premiere recording of today's work, so that probably counts for something.

Yehudi Wyner has been chugging along as a stately Boston professional for some time now - his career stretches from the 1950's until today, and while he'll probably never burst into the popular consciousness there are a number of his works I'm quite fond of, especially the Three Short Fantasies for piano from 1963, performed here by Wyner himself:

Perhaps the reason I've never talked about him before is that none of his works jump up and down too much, though I did have the privilege of reviewing a work of his for actual money as part of a concert review I had published in the British periodical Tempo.  I may talk about the Fantasies at length in the future, but today we're covering one of his earliest works, published in this sumptuous collection:

(Now THAT is a pretty sweet cover)

This 1980 anthology collects quite a few excellent songs, from stone classics, such as two of Elliott Carter's Three Poems of Robert Frost, to remarkable obscurities, such as "A patch of old snow" and "Fire and Ice" by William Ames, two songs I hope to cover in the future.  O'Neal took the offer of making an anthology on behalf of Associated Music as a challenge, and opportunity to spotlight songs he loved that hadn't gotten a fair shake in the market, especially considering that at that point nobody bought one-sheets of classical songs anymore.  It's this spirit that brought this ditty to my attention:

Written one year after he snagged a Masters in Music from Yale, Exeunt sets a wry poem by Richard Wilbur with clarity and style.  The feel is almost Neo-Baroque, the sleepy counterpoint reminiscent of a Bach-era recitative, though with open-voiced Modernism informing the harmonies.  I appreciate music that can depict the feel of Summer's heavy, thick heat, those times when you don't feel like breathing too much, and the long, enveloping lines of this song do that just fine.  All fast movement is the murmur of insects, aside from a bit of a "bridge" at the bottom of the first page where time and pacing is thrown into surprising variation - it's not too often one sees an 11/8 bar like that.  However eerie things get, though, Wyner has the sentimentality to have the last two "anchor" notes in the bass make a IV-I resolution, even with a neat major third at the full stop.  It's a small gem of a song, a fine companion to other heavy death songs, such as Ives's dour classic "Like A Sick Eagle".  Too bad there's no studio recording of it, though I was able to make due with my own means.

It's good to get back to business.  C-ya,


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