Robert Spano / Jessica Rivera: Hölderlin-Lieder / Sonata: Four Elements


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Track Listing

Hölderlin-Lieder (2013)
1. Lebenslauf 1:57
2. Sokrates und Alcibiades 2:40
3. An die Parzen 7:44
Jessica Rivera, soprano
Robert Spano, piano

Sonata: Four Elements (2016)
4. earth songs 15:25
5. air born 10:21
6. under water 9:10
7. on fire 8:20
Robert Spano, piano


In the early 1990s, I encountered the poetry of Hölderlin, the eighteenth-century German poet beloved by the nineteenth-century Romantics. I, too, was enraptured by the beauty of the language and the sublimity of ideas. The ideas of the three poems that inspired these songs might be succinctly expressed as: 1) returning to the source; 2) the supremacy of beauty; 3) human participation in the divine through the creative act.

The imagery of the poems sparked in me musical correspondences that I attempted to express through a late-nineteenth-century musical vocabulary, in homage to the masters of the intimate and exquisite form of lieder. I wrote them for soprano Jessica Rivera, whose beautiful voice and rich artistry were my muse in the process.

Sonata: Four Elements
My sonata Four Elements takes the four classical elements, often attributed to Empedocles, as inspiration for the four movements of a sonata. These classical elements of earth, air, water, and fire have a rich history of associative meaning. Thinkers as ancient as Thales and Heraclitus, and as recent as Carl Jung, have been fascinated by the multi-layered symbolism inherent in these seed ideas. They are also key concepts in the western esoteric traditions, appearing in astrology, tarot cards, the qabalistic tree of life, and any variety of magical arts.

I was inspired to capture something of the unique and complex qualities of each element, yet also to connect them, as they are dynamically related to each other.

Recorded June 17 & 18, 2013 and October 30, 2016 at Clonick Hall, Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Oberlin, Ohio.

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