John Harbison: “Milosz Songs"
1st February 2006
The work centers on 11 poems of 20th-century Lithuanian Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz. The “new things” that Harbison refers to is his very specific stage setting of the work. “This piece surrounds the singer with a concertino group of six players. This concertino plays an important, varied role in every song. I thought of these players as satellites revolving around the orbiting path of the singer...Milosz’s poems are Epilogues for the 20th century. He was a witness to its most harrowing events.” The poet’s life traversed the war-torn terrain of World War II and led him to settle in Berkeley, CA. “Milosz draws us, unready, as he was into the great sweep of history. Always, he reacts not ‘in sorrow, but in wonder.’”