The degree recital.  Such a formal term.  It is a milestone in the music degree program and here at Eastman, it means the opportunity to play in the great Kilbourn Hall.  Today, officially April, the recital is finally within sight.  This is the week of preparation, rehearsal, final touches, nervousness, excitement.  I have the great opportunity to premiere several new works on this program so I thought I would share a little bit of the musical experience with you in preparation for Monday’s performance. The recital program is comprised of works by Eastman composer, Steve Danyew (also saxophonist on the program and conveniently, my boyfriend!).  The program order is as follows:

Back Lot (Danyew) for mezzo soprano, saxophone, and piano Fantasy No. 1 (Danyew) for viola and piano Hers Was a Beautiful Soul (Danyew) for marimba and flute Nocturne II* (Danyew) for solo piano Poem (Hartley) for saxophone and piano Nocturne IV* (Danyew) for solo piano Come Home* (Danyew) for saxophone and piano

*world premiere

The first piece, Back Lot is a setting of a poem by Lia Purpura.  The nature of the poem is vague and non-descript, though the character portrays an underlying sense of longing throughout.  The music delicately matches this inward emotion in a very atmospheric manner.  The piece is reflective; hopeful, yet still yearning in the end.  The written intricacies of this composition are such that the mezzo soprano and saxophone often become one voice at times: joined and then inclined in different directions.  Similarly, the piano and saxophone timbres often blend into a brilliant, unified sound.  This piece was premiered this time last year at Eastman’s Warren Benson Forum.

The Nocturne set presents contrasts and an exciting exploration of the elements.  Nocturne II (part of a set of four) begins with low, rich, resonating chord.  As the performer, I find the opening section depicts night reflections in water – the part-writing is such that the hands mirror each other (each moving in the opposite direction).  Suddenly, brilliance appears in the upper register of the piano, as if the stars have instantly appeared.  The closing section is filled with wonder and thrill – darkness, light, and water’s reflection.  Poem, though not explicitly a “night-song” complements the outer pieces in this set through its presentation of contrasts (saxophone and piano timbres, among other things).  The piano begins with a very mechanical quasi-ostinato pattern.  The saxophone melody layered on top is very lyrical and mournful – in a way, the human voice of this piece.  The piano continues to portray “time” (a clock ticking relentlessly) every once in a while “chiming the hour” amidst the saxophone’s emotive melodies.  The set concludes with Nocturne IV, again exploring night, water, and starlight.  In this piece, however, there is the added experience of waves, wind, and rumbling thunder which builds into a frenetic storm.  The piece concludes with the calm following a storm – peaceful but also reflective, as layers of previous musical motives are woven together in the final moments.

Come Home originated from a portion of Fantasy No. 2 for viola and piano.  Steve recreated the piece for mezzo-soprano and piano using the text for my poem, Come Home.  Recently, we decided to transcribe the piece for saxophone and piano, the version included on this program.  The text, a letter from a mother to her son at war is a dramatic representation of love, longing, and remembrance.  The text is as follows:

Hear the rain, the darkness closing in now. Spring has already come without you.

Come home. The days are long and the nights pass slower, Darker even. Still, I keep writing to you. Come home, my son, my love.

Dark the night, the world asleep until morning, Resting in freedom. How I miss you.

Come home. I think of those days A sweet little boy, your smile and laughter and eyes so bright. Come home, my son, my love.

As the dawn awaits the sun each morning So my heart awaits that morning when you

Come home, my son, my love.

Now listen, I want you to know I need you Please be safe, please take care and know that I love you, my son.

Copyright 2008 Ashley Danyew