Hyperion Records

Mid-Winter Songs
1980, orchestrated 1983
author of text

'Lauridsen: Nocturnes & other choral works' (CDA67580)
Lauridsen: Nocturnes & other choral works
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67580 
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

Mid-Winter Songs
Literary insight and musical inspiration are fused in Lauridsen’s Mid-Winter Songs (1980, orchestrated 1983). For this cycle, Lauridsen’s voracious reading led him to the poetry of the British poet and novelist Robert Graves. To select poems for the Mid-Winter Songs, Lauridsen read—and reread—the complete corpus of Graves’s verse. The composer has testified that he was ‘much taken with the elegance, richness and extraordinary beauty of [Graves’s] poetry and his insights regarding the human experience’. Lauridsen chose verse inspired by the poet’s obsession with his colourful mistress and muse Laura Riding, as well as poetry that reflected the measure of tranquility that Graves attained with his second wife, Beryl.

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

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