No 1: Lament for Pasiphaë Dying sun, shine warm a little longer!
No 2: Like Snow She, then, like snow in a dark night
No 3: She tells her love while half asleep
No 4: Mid-Winter Waking Stirring suddenly from long hibernation
No 5: Intercession in Late October How hard the year dies: no frost yet
With the Mid-Winter Songs, Lauridsen boldly reinvented the ‘choral cycle’, imbuing this genre with unwonted emotional depth, formal sophistication and thematic consistency. Thus the Mid-Winter Songs constitute a five-movement choral symphony that evinces a virtuosic degree of integration: all of the main melodic motives developed throughout this score are announced in the dramatic opening measures. Designed as a Bogenform (‘arch form’), the Mid-Winter Songs possess an inner formal logic that does not preclude soaring lyricism—or searing expressivity, as in the opening movement, the harrowing Lament for Pasiphaë.
After the incandescent anguish of this opening lament, the second movement, Like Snow, is a madrigal-like scherzo whose references to winter aptly conjure up that icy icon of Graves’ romantic life, Laura Riding. The succeeding slow movement, She tells her love while half asleep, which Lauridsen describes as filled with ‘tenderness and warmth’, is an encomium to the poet’s second wife that forms the score’s emotional and formal climax. A second choral scherzo follows: filled with jazzy syncopations, Mid-Winter Waking conjures the poet’s joy at the reawakening of his inspiration, which is compared to the first thaw that presages the end of winter. The finale, Intercession in Late October, is a quiet prayer, deeply moving in its evident reluctance to return to coldness, both of weather and of the heart. An extended orchestral interlude recapitulates all of the thematic material, but the Mid-Winter Songs end, like several of Lauridsen’s cycles, in a manner at once poignant and unresolved.
from notes by Byron Adams © 2007