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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

Whitman Settings

Wigmore Hall (London, United Kingdom)

Alexander Melnikov, Claron McFadden