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Title:Only Changing Lands and Changing Lips: Love and life in Peter Lieberson's Neruda Songs
Author(s):Stiles, Bethany B.
Subject(s):Song Cycle
Vocal Music
Peter Lieberson
Pablo Neruda
Lorraine Hunt Lieberson
American music
Abstract:Neruda Songs (2005) came to my attention during graduate work at the University of Louisville, where the cycle had won the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for Music Competition in 2008. I walked the long hallway featuring photographs of each year’s recipients hundreds of times, and found myself lingering in front of Peter Lieberson’s picture. As both a mezzo-soprano and admirer of Pablo Neruda’s poetry, I was at once intrigued by Neruda Songs. As I began to research the work, I learned that the cycle is markedly different from the bulk of the composer's output, as is its companion cycle, Songs of Love and Sorrow (2010). The former was written for the composer's late wife, acclaimed mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, and the latter following her death from breast cancer in 2006. It is impossible to discuss Neruda Songs without examining Lieberson’s romantic relationship with Hunt. Her musical influence, his wide variety of interests and inspirations, and his willingness to expose his personal life in his music culminated in these two song cycles, which were among the last large pieces he wrote before his own death from lymphoma in 2011. This paper examines Peter Lieberson's award-winning song cycle Neruda Songs (2006) for mezzo-soprano and orchestra, and the remarkable series of events that made it possible. Though Lieberson has received many accolades for his instrumental works within the classical music world, his vocal works have remained somewhat obscure. Following biographical information, I will discuss the evolution of Lieberson’s vocal writing beginning with Three Songs (1981) through the last years of his life, including how the major influences of twelve-tone technique and Buddhism influenced his work. Within Neruda Songs, I will discuss the following: genesis, conception, fruition, text selection, premiere, receiving the Grawemeyer Award, and the lasting legacy the cycle has had on singers and audiences.
Issue Date:2014
Genre:Dissertation / Thesis
Publication Status:unpublished
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-06-18

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