Whitman Settings


soprano and piano
Whitman W (Author)
Walt Whitman
Commissioned by the Amphion Foundation
First Performance
(1st three songs) 17.6.91, Aldeburgh Festival, Snape Maltings: Lucy Shelton/Ian Brown. First performance (complete): 15.10.91,BBC Pebble Mill, Birmingham: Lucy Shelton/John Constable

Score 0-571-51409-X on sale

Programme Notes

Although these versions of characteristically powerful but unusually short poems by Walt Whitman constitute my eighth concert work for a soprano voice, they are my first in many years for voice and piano. Earlier attempts having been impossibly dependent on models rather too close to home, I was very conscious, while composing, of trying to re-imagine a very familiar genre with fresh ears – specifically of setting the voice in different contexts within the all-encompassing range of the piano. All four poems muse on things in space or the sky, and all four songs grow from the short idea heard at the outset. Whitman Settings was commissioned by the Amphion Foundation and is dedicated to Lucy Shelton, who gave the first performances at the 1991 Aldeburgh Festival (with Ian Brown) and at BBC Pebble Mill (with John Constable). In 1992 I made a parallel version for soprano and orchestra.

© Oliver Knussen

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'Whitman Settings' reviews

‘Every complex accompaniment in this song-cycle was beautifully and precisely judged, with wind and brass chords that seemed to ring with the clarity of bells.’ Read more

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