Sunday, April 29, 2018

Malte Roesner to premiere new Clint Borzoni song cycle

Clint Borzoni (left) and Malte Roesner (right)
German bass Malte Roesner, who was born in the United States, will be premiering a quintessentially American song cycle by Clint Borzoni, based on the poetry of Wendell Berry. The cycle, which is entitled "The Hidden Singer" revolves around seven poems all associated with birds, which are normally correlated with high soprano voices. The low, male voice works well with Berry's settings, who has been dubbed the "conservationist poet," and Borzoni's music grounds these works solidly in nature and the Earth around us. The song cycle is scored for string quartet, but opens with an a cappella setting.

Randal Turner sings Borzoni's "That shadow, my likeness":

The concert will be held at Ansel Adams' former home in San Francisco and tickets include a generous supply of wine and food, in keeping with Musica Marin's tradition to present chamber music in the original intimate, salon setting of a home. The song cycle will be paired with Mendelssohn's String Quartet in A minor. Tickets for the June 3rd concert are available online

The song cycle was commissioned specifically for Roesner, and Borzoni said that he learned a lot from working directly with the singer, who is also a musicologist and recently transitioned to a lower voice range.

We asked Malte Roesner to tell us about this song cycle and here's what he had to say:
"Artistic expression can speak to us on many different levels. It can be emotionally beguiling or intellectually stimulating or aesthetically pleasing. Only exceptional art has the ability to reach us on all of them simultaneously. The same way that multi-sensory learning is the most effective way of understanding or memorizing something, I think that this multi-level impact is what makes art captivating. 

The poems by Wendell Berry do have this quality. They are modern poems, but they are also timeless through their imagery of nature and metaphor and in their deeply spiritual sense of connectedness. 

We are very lucky that in this song cycle Clint was not only able to capture these qualities and feelings, but augment them by adding his own artistic depth.  Either this is just a very lucky pairing or Clint has shown an exceptional sensibility when writing this music (probably both), because I feel that his composition possesses the same timelessness and captivating visceral quality as the poems.  

There is an earthy and "woody" feeling to the music, yet it washes over you like water. At other times there are almost folkish elements that dance with an aerial lightness. And I am sure I could also describe a fiery quality in order to cover ALL the alchemistic elements...There is not a lot of art song literature written specifically for the bass voice, maybe because this voice type functions a little bit differently than high voices or because it feels as if it only lends itself for very specific topics. I feel that this song cycle is a truly special and important addition to the bass song repertory, because it just... works... and then gets you in the feels."
Borzoni, who is the Composer-in-Residence at Musica Marin, has become associated for writing for low male voice. He has written a song cycle for bass-baritone Tim Hill, several songs for bass-baritone Randal Turner (based on Walt Whitman's poetry) and penned two pieces for String Quartet and baritone for Marco Vassalli based on German settings. His opera "When Adonis Calls," which is scored for baritone and bass-baritone, is receiving performances in both Asheville and Chicago this year. He also wrote the two-act opera “Antinous and Hadrian,” which features a baritone lead. His opera The Copper Queen,  won Arizona Opera's Sparks Competition for new works, and is based on a true story about the alleged ghost of a prostitute haunting a historic hotel in Bisbee, Arizona.

Marco Vassalli sings Borzoni's "Stufen":

Roesner made his highly-acclaimed U.S. stage debut last year with West Edge Opera in Soler's The Chastity Tree, as well as his recital debut performing music by Soler and Süßmayr. He recently performed the Devil in Weinberger's Schwanda, der Dudelsackpfeifer (Schwanda, the Bagpiper) at the Stadttheater Gießen in Germany.

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