Year Composed 1999
Orchestration contratenore and string quartet
Availability contact composer
Original performer Kamerata Quartet, Jonathan Peter Kenny
Awarded Adam Didur composition prize(1999) and Special prize by ISCM Polish Section at Panufnik composition competition (2000)
Recorded on CD “Seven Sonnets”
The timeless echoes of love in the works of William Shakespeare have cultured the globe for centuries. With Seven Sonnets, composer Katarina Glowicka has tapped the endless wellspring of the scribe’s Sonnets of 1609. Shakespeare’s penetrating insights on love are at times transcendent, endearing and others, heart wrenching. Glowicka’s compositional interpretations traverse this dynamic spectrum of emotion, giving Shakespeare’s words the musical justice they deserve.
Composed for quartet and countertenor, with Glowicka’s trademark technological infusion, the 50-minute song cycle unfolds an evocative journey. Nearly 400 years after the sonnets’ creation, the young composer adapted 3 of the poems into Summer’s Day in 1999. She then expanded the set with 4 more selections a decade later. The experience is yours to relish now, with the full effort compiled in this album – 4 centuries in the making.
“My heart hath played”
This playful gesture in music juggles the perplexing wit of Shakespeare’s Sonnet XXIV. A single violin peeks through the initial silence, as if a child inquiring innocently. Though, just as Shakespeare, there is nothing innocent or simple in this jousting ramble of a bewildered lover.
The strings that pulse and punctuate reflect the wordplay, but the voice feels earthly, wise and capable of harkening truths. All at once the range is playful and insightful, but ultimately culminates somewhat cautiously. The strings erupt in reaction to a melody calm in tone, but comprised of baffling word trickery. Glowicka puts to rest this poor lover’s torment, with an exhausted expression from Sonnet XXVII.
“O, never say”
This plea of a lone singer is an operatic and ancient battle between strings and voice. It is here that Glowicka shows an intuitive understanding of the often-tangled needs of the human condition so natural to Shakespeare’s poems. The sonnet spins a breed of drama that fuels the human experience, like a dance between predator and prey in emotional survival. As prominent in emoticons of feisty young texters as it was when whispered in medieval chambers, it is a plea echoed through time.
Glowicka ignites the sonnet with the same intrigue of seeing a fire’s first flame. She stokes this flame with the steady, singular voice, as strings bounce and rise like sparks. The vocalist wavers, resonate between beautifully volatile strings, embracing a composition as erratic as fire.
“My love is strengthened”
Reprieve and rejuvenation musically emerge in this sonnet’s interpretation. It is an emotional regeneration – the voice a beating heart that pulses new blood through a body bruised and burned from loving too much. The strings evoke a connective tissue that forms and reaches, moving at a yearning pace with a strong, but somber glide. In time, the sonnet’s strings grow dense, and the heart – the voice – is elicited to beat stronger, renewed with yearning.
As in nature, when fire clears paths for new growth, heartache can serve as an emotional catharsis. Musically, the strings burn through this heartache, and Shakespeare’s essence is enlivened: though one may restrain in signing praise to a lover who has hurt them, it does not weaken their affection.