The musical compositions of Schoenberg, Kelly Ann Murphy, Brahms and young locals. (Or, lovely stories as told by the Gryphon Trio)

by guest blogger Julie Berridge

Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night), was composed in 1899. Schoenberg composed it as a sextet and Eduard Steuermann later arranged it for a trio.

Verklärte Nacht was inspired by a poem of the same name written by German poet Richard Fedor Leopold Dehmel. The poem tells a lovely story of a night transfigured by a revelation of a woman who has found her true love around the time she discovers that she has become pregnant by another man. As the new lovers walk through the forest, the woman reveals her sadness and regret. The man’s response is beautiful and totally unexpected.

Below is an English translation of the poem. The composition matches the moods of the poem. Come hear the Gryphon Trio tonight, and see if you agree.

Two people are walking through a bare, cold wood;
the moon keeps pace with them and draws their gaze.
The moon moves along above tall oak trees,
there is no wisp of cloud to obscure the radiance
to which the black, jagged tips reach up.
A woman’s voice speaks:
“I am carrying a child, and not by you.
I am walking here with you in a state of sin.
I have offended grievously against myself.
I despaired of happiness,
and yet I still felt a grievous longing
for life’s fullness, for a mother’s joys
and duties; and so I sinned,
and so I yielded, shuddering, my sex
to the embrace of a stranger,
and even thought myself blessed.
Now life has taken its revenge,
and I have met you, met you.”
She walks on, stumbling.
She looks up; the moon keeps pace.
Her dark gaze drowns in light.
A man’s voice speaks:
“Do not let the child you have conceived
be a burden on your soul.
Look, how brightly the universe shines!
Splendour falls on everything around,
you are voyaging with me on a cold sea,
but there is the glow of an inner warmth
from you in me, from me in you.
That warmth will transfigure the stranger’s child,
and you bear it me, begot by me.
You have transfused me with splendour,
you have made a child of me.”
He puts an arm about her strong hips.
Their breath embraces in the air.
Two people walk on through the high, bright night.
Give me Phoenix Wing to Fly is a composition by Canadian composer Kelly-Marie Murphy, Commissioned by the Gryphon Quartet in 1997. Murphy has noted that the words of John Keats inspired the work.

But when I am consumed in the fire,
Give me new Phoenix wings to fly at my desire

Those are lines from Keats’ sonnet “On Sitting Down to Read King Lear Once Again”. Keats wrote that sonnet in 1818, but those words are perhaps even more relevant today.

Murphy has noted,

“I’ve always been intrigued by the myth of the Phoenix – a bird that immolates in fire and then rises up again from its own ashes. It is such a powerful image, and one which is relevant to contemporary life, as we find ourselves balanced somewhat precariously on the brink of disaster. No matter how devastating any single event might be, you can still recover and begin again: a do-over. The success in the attempt and the belief that it is possible to move forward”.

Give Me Phoenix Wings To Fly: A shouted demand to the heavens, or a whispered prayer? Struggle, angst, chaos, exploration, tenuous grasps of the thing we most want that eludes us. Freedom caught but can it be held? Come, listen and decide. Tonight.

It’s only fitting that a theme so apt to contemporary society be followed by compositions of very young contemporary composers in the 2016 Gryphon Trio Young Composers Program from the Claude Watson program at Earl Haig Secondary School. This program was initiated by the Gryphon Trio in 1996, to provide mentorship to students as they create original works. What moods and emotions will you hear in these compositions? Come and find out.

Brahms’ Trio in B-sharp Major brings the evening to a close. It develops through four movements. The work opens with a pensive but sweet piano solo, followed by an engaging cello solo. The second movement starts with a whispered skip followed by increased exuberance. Then comes the Adagio third movement. Mysterious, serene and meditative. The final movement approaches symphonic proportions. The scope and sound of this work is enormous. Warm, sentimental, lyrical, rich and intense.

All in all, an evening not to be missed.

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