Songs of Longing and Solitude

the music of Libby Larsen, Beethoven, Weinberg, and Schubert

Nola Richardson, soprano

David Perry, clarinet

Yevgeny Yontov, piano


Friday, December 8th, 2017 at 7:30 pm


First Presbyterian Church

704 Whitney Avenue

New Haven, CT 06511


At the door: $20 / 10 - Adult / Student or Senior

Online: $15 / 8 - Adult / Student or Senior

Divorce, behead, die, divorce, behead, die.” This grade school memory game is how composer Libby Larsenfirst came to know about the six wives of Henry the VIII, King of England from 1509 to 1547. In her own words:

“Try Me, Good King is a group of five songs drawn from the final letters and gallows speeches of Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, and Katherine Howard. Henry’s sixth wife, Katherine Parr, outlived him and brought some domestic and spiritual peace into Henry’s immediate family. Although her written devotions are numerous, and her role in the story of the six wives of Henry VIII is that of a peaceful catalyst. In these songs I chose to focus on the intimate crises of the heart that affected the first five of the six wives. In a sense, this group is a monodrama of anguish and power.

“I’ve interwoven a lute song into each song… These songs were composed during the reign of Elizabeth I, and they create a tapestry of unsung words which comment on the real situation of each doomed queen. Two other musical gestures unify the songs, firstly, the repeated note, which recalls the lute and creates psychological tension. The second device I created is abstract bell-tolling, which punctuates each song and releases the spiritual meaning of the words.”

At the outbreak of World War II on Soviet soil, Polish-Jewish composer Mieczysław Weinberg was evacuated to Tashkent, where he met Dmitri Shostakovich, who was very impressed by Weinberg’s talents and became his close friend. Shostakovich later convinced Weinberg to move to Moscow, where they continued to work together and consult each other regarding new musical compositions. It was Moscow where Weinberg wrote his Sonata for Clarinet and Piano in 1945.

At that time, Weinberg was almost entirely ignored by the Soviet musical establishment. On January 13th of 1948, however, Soviet agents began following Weinberg, and in February 1953, he was arrested on charges of "Jewish bourgeois nationalism." He was saved by Stalin's death the following month and was officially rehabilitated shortly afterwards.

Libby Larsen’s Try Me, Good King will be coupled with Ludwig van Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte (To the Distant Beloved), and the program will close with Franz Schubert’s famous Der Hirt auf dem Felsen (The Shepherd on the Rock), bringing together all performing forces to remind us that the Spring will surely come, even if the lonely, oppressive cold and darkness now surround us.