If Franz Schubert were still writing art songs today, what would they sound like? We will never know from Schubert himself, but Salt Lake City had a chance Saturday evening to discover what a contemporary composer had to say in this traditional art form.
Composer Murray Boren and his wife, soprano Susan Alexander Boren, presented an evening of art songs as part of the "Families Making Music" series at Temple Square. Augmenting the traditional piano accompaniment to a chamber orchestra, Boren focused the evening on poetry by writer Glen Nelson.
The evening began with a set of three songs, titled "My Children." Immediately, the synergy between singer, composer and poet became apparent; they all seemed to be on the same wavelength, musically and emotionally.
As art forms, poetry and music serve to communicate a message both on the apparent surface and also at a deeper, more intellectually and emotionally satisfying level. Thoughtful and thought-provoking, the marriage between the music, poetry and performance in these songs matched on every level.
"Seven Sisters" followed, a set of songs about seven different LDS women in different times and places. Susan Alexander Boren's expressive singing style and clear, rich voice proved to be a good match for Murray Boren's writing style.
Although most of the songs were as individually crafted as their subjects, the "Afterwards" pieces seemed to have an element of sameness about them. However, Boren's effective orchestrations throughout the program got a lot out of a little orchestra. Well-crafted and thoughtful, he used sometimes nontraditional combinations of instruments to clarify ideas and create a larger-than-life effect.On occasion, the orchestra seemed to be thrown off a little by the complexity of the harmonic language, sounding somewhat unfocused and imbalanced. The Friends of Music Chamber Orchestra generally played quite well, but there were several times when the group overpowered the singer to the point that she couldn't be heard at all.
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