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Hal Freedman: Blog

Program Notes for "Voices of the Woods" 2012 release

Posted on August 3, 2012 with 0 comments
Voices of the Woods

Throughout history, the forest has been regarded as a symbol of spirituality and the cycle of life. It has inspired thought, and fired the imagination. The great composers gave the forest world a voice through the language of music. In their works, many Voices of the Woods are heard and preserved for posterity.

Part l
Robert Schumann
Waldszenen, Op. 82 (Forest Scenes)
The Romantic poetry of the nineteenth century was rich with the imagery and symbolism of the forest. It was often expressed through music, such as in the beautiful "Waldszenen," or "Forest Scenes," inspired by some of Schumann's favorite poems. This collection of nine musical vignettes evokes the forest as a place of mystery and the unknown, as well as a sanctuary of safety and peace. Composed in 1848-1849, toward the end of a life cut short, it is documented that Schumann "cherished" these pieces.

Part ll
Edvard Grieg
Lyric Pieces
These six works from a collection of sixty-six "Lyric Pieces" for piano by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg paint a woodland landscape of natural beauty, solitude, and warm sentiments. One can find peace and refuge in the serenity of nature as did Grieg at his wilderness retreat. It was there that he composed many of these colorful tone poems of the late Romantic era.

Part lll
Edward MacDowell
Woodland Sketches. Op.51
Composed in 1896 by the American composer, Edward MacDowell, the "Woodland Sketches, Op.51," is a recognized classic of American music. It reflects the beauty of the New England woods, as well as its history, literature, folk music, and folklore. The style of the music is romantic, bordering on impressionistic in its evocation of moods and atmospheres. Rich in genuine sentiment and full of remembrance, this brilliant collection of poetic miniatures is a window into a bygone America; one of grace, sensitivity, and rural charm.

Part IV
Claude Debussy
From Preludes Bks. 1 and 11, Images Bk. 1

The French composer, Claude Debussy, opposing the established musical traditions of the nineteenth century, brought the Impressionist aesthetic to music. As part of the Impressionist movement, Debussy’s intention was to create a music that mirrors the ephemeral qualities of the physical world around us. This new music focused on atmosphere, rather than the storytelling and strong emotions of the Romantic period. Thus, Debussy had created a new genre, which ushered in the Modern period of the twentieth century.
With these four compositions, the stories of the forest are left behind for the open atmosphere of the countryside. Gazing at hills covered with heather, as far as the eye can see, we've come to the end of the journey, and the beginning of a new one.