Nancy Bush wrote the words for the Three Songs of Venice
(1974), which were composed for and dedicated to Dame Janet Baker (who had memorably recorded A Piper
on an anthology of English song released in 1963, masterminded by Ted Perry, founder of Hyperion Records, when he was working for Saga Classics). They are among Head’s most ambitious settings in their range, subtlety and scope and a fine envoi to his career as a song composer. Sadly Head did not live to hear the first performance at a concert for the ‘Save Venice Fund’ on 24 October 1977. The Gondolier
has a mysterious quality with a decorative opening idea on the piano which binds the song together; it is combined with a lapping rhythm that effectively portrays the sensation of the gondola plying its way through the narrow canals. In the middle of the song, the rhythm is interrupted by the eerie call of the gondolier. The bustle of people and the flights of wheeling pigeons find their musical equivalent in St Mark’s Square
, where a variant of the piano idea from the previous song is prominent. Rain storm
also has thematic links to the first song and reaches its climax with a memorable melodic phrase at the words ‘A city more beautiful than any other’.
from notes by Andrew Burn © 2012