Venables: Through These Pale Cold Days US Premiere
4th April 2017
The cycle, which bears the subtitle ‘Five Songs of War and Remembrance’, is a commemorative work, penned to mark the centenary years of The Great War. Whilst in some movements Venables has chosen to set the verse of well-known writers such as Wilfred Owen (‘The Send Off’) and Siegfried Sassoon (‘Suicide Trenches’), the majority of the text is purposefully selected from the works of often overlooked poets.
The second movement, for example, is a lyrical setting of Francis St. Vincent Morris’ (1896-1917) little-known ‘Procrastination’, a poem addressing the subject of love in wartime: love sought, felt and then lost. Isaac Rosenberg’s (1890-1918) ‘Through These Pale Cold Days’ considers the plight of the author’s own ghostly Jewish ancestors, those long dead searching for their Edenic resting place. This, Rosenberg’s poem, was written just three days before his death on the 31st March 1918. The fifth and final movement ‘If You Forget’ sets words Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy (1883-1929). The song opens with a tolling bell-like figure heard in the piano in a slowly paced 4/4 rhythm and continues with a disconsolate melody, underpinned by an elegiac piano accompaniment.
Through These Pale Cold Days Op. 46 was originally performed by Nick Pritchard (tenor), Louise Williams (viola) and Benjamin Frith (piano), and has since been sung by James Gilchrist.
Ian Venables (b.1955)
Ian Venables has been described as ‘Britain’s greatest living composer of art song’ (Musical Opinion) and ‘a song composer as fine as Finzi and Gurney’ (BBC Music Magazine). Writing tonal music in a warm lyrical vein he has composed over 60 works in this genre, including eight song cycles. He has ‘an extraordinary gift for identifying with the poetry he is setting, reflecting the poet’s battered hopes, yearnings and aspirations, and catching the intensity and pathos of the moment’ (Musical Opinion). Beyond the world of art-song he has written many chamber works that include a Piano Quintet Op. 27 and a String Quartet Op.32, as well as smaller pieces for solo instruments and piano. He has also composed works for choir, piano and organ.