Commissioned by the Gloucestershire Creation Festival

  • vn vc pf
  • Soprano
  • 23 min
  • Edward Thomas, Stephen Spender, F.L Lucas, Walter de la Mare, Thomas Hardy

Programme Note

John Joubert: Landscapes, Op. 129
Song cycle for soprano and piano trio

i. Adlestrop Edward Thomas
ii. The Pylons Stephen Spender
iii. Beleaguered Cities F. L. Lucas
iv. The Corner Stone Walter de la Mare
v. In Time of 'The Breaking of Nations' Thomas Hardy

The poems which form the basis of Landscapes have been selected by me to explore a timeless but increasingly urgent theme - the impact of Man on Nature. In 'Adlestrop' the poet records a moment of illumination in a stationary express train. Beginning reflectively with the voice alone, the instruments enter in turn leading to the visionary climax of the song. In 'The Pylons' I have attempted to convey a sense of reconciliation between the two contrasting worlds represented in the poem - the pre-industrial rural and the urban sprawl, and a prophetic vision of Nature exacting a terrible revenge in a vividly depicted 'green' invasion. 'The Corner Stone' describes a ruined building where Nature has finally taken over, and the tiny creatures and plants which now inhabit it. The musical imagery of 'In Time of "The Breaking of Nations"' is derived from the plodding horse and the rising wreaths of smoke depicted in the poem - a vision of Man and Nature in some sort of harmony, despite the Great War referred to in the poem's title. The cycle as a whole is held together by a four-note motif which reappears in each song in various guises, and is first heard on voice alone at the beginning of 'Adlestrop'.

Landscapes was commissioned for the Gloucestershire Creation Festival and first performed in September 1992, in the Town Hall, Cheltenham, by Catherine James (soprano) and the Tempo Ensemble.
© John Joubert