No 1: Sa nuit d'été Si je pourrais avec mes mains brûlantes
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No 2: Soneto de la noche Cuando yo muera quiero tus manos en mis ojos
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Soneto LXXXIX from Cien Sonetos de Amor
No 3: Sure on this shining night
In the first of the Nocturnes, Sa nuit d’été, Lauridsen draws again upon the body of Rilke’s French poetry. Unlike the meditative inwardness of Les chansons des roses, however, the mood of Sa nuit d’été, established at once with rich harmonic structures in the piano, is one of sensual abandonment to the beauty of a starry night. (A glance at the composer’s sketches reveals how meticulously he plotted the vertiginous eight-part contrapuntal climax of this ecstatic work.) The second movement is a musical translation of Pablo Neruda’s great love sonnet, Soneto de la noche. While the first and third movements of the Nocturnes have prominent piano parts, Lauridsen emphasizes the intimacy of Neruda’s romantic poem by scoring it for unaccompanied chorus. Here the music is reminiscent of a quietly passionate Chilean folk melody, varied by Lauridsen with great delicacy and unobtrusive skill; the subtle phrase extensions found in this movement could be descendants of those in Scarlatti’s more meditative sonatas. The final panel of this triptych is a heartrendingly lovely interpretation of James Agee’s famous poem Sure on this shining night. In this evocation of the quiet consummation of a summer night—for both the opening and closing movements of the Nocturnes express differing degrees of aestival exultation—the luminous sonorities of the piano surround the intertwining voices with a halo of mellow resonance. Thus the Nocturnes conclude with a pantheistic benediction, brimful with deep emotion, which serves as a fitting conclusion to this midsummer pilgrimage.
from notes by Byron Adams © 2007