Whitman Settings (orchestral)


soprano and orchestra
Whitman W (Author)
Solo Voice(s) with Orchestra, Soprano
Walt Whitman
3(III=picc).1.ca.2.cbcl.2.cbsn - 4200 - perc(4): vib/BD/4 SD/glsp/2 ant.cym/t.bells/tgl/xyl/3 susp.cym/2 tam-t/whip - cel - harp - strings (min

Commissioned by the Amphion Foundation

First Performance
5.3.92, Barbican Hall, London: Lucy Shelton/BBC Symphony Orchestra/Oliver Knussen

Score 0-571-51410-3 on sale, parts for hire

Programme Notes

The Whitman Settings, commissioned by the Amphion Foundation and written for Lucy Shelton, were originally composed for voice and piano during 1991. These characteristically powerful but unusually short poems of Walt Whitman attracted me because they deal with grand natural phenomena on small canvases. The idea of making a parallel version with orchestra came later, while puzzling over how some unusually wide chord-spacings could be achieved without a piano. As it turned out, the original vocal line is supported by the most intricate and kaleidoscopic orchestral score I’ve ever done (although the actual notes remain faithful to the original), and I like to think of the result as a concise four-movement vocal symphony. All four poems muse on things in space or the sky, and all four songs grow out of the idea heard in the very first bar.

© Oliver Knussen

Licensing Information

News & Reviews

'Whitman Settings (orchestral)' 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.' Malcolm Hayes, Telegraph, 9 March 1992 Read more

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