Written for Jane Manning and the Vesuvius Ensemble
Bennett's writing seems to reveal a remarkable empathy with the particular instrument for which he is composing, from soloist to large orchestra (as in his Zodiac, premiered recently by the National Symphony Orchestra). The present set of songs is no exception. Without exceeding the limits of traditional instrumental usage, he realizes their widest idiomatic potentialities.
It is partly by virtue of this that the clarinet, cello and piano in Crazy Jane often seem to take on the proportions of a whole orchestra. This is the case in the outer two songs, which are dramatic and declamatory. The middle song is gentler and expressive, and here the instruments accompany the voice with a fine fabric of counterpoint.
The poems set here by Bennett are from William Butler Yeats' Words for Music Perhaps. The central character, "Crazy Jane", is among Yeats' most compelling poetic figures, earthy and worldly-wise.