Program Notes, Texts & Translations

Click HERE to listen to my entire Senior Recital performed Saturday, February 8, 2003 in the Lillian H. Duncan Recital Hall, Rice University.
Dennis Arrowsmith

Program Notes, Texts & Translations

Applause greets the artists.
Per questa bella mano - RealAudio®

Per questa bella mano, (By this beautiful hand)
Aria for Bass and obligato Double Bass,
KV 612
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Assisted by:
Mabel Kwan, Piano
David Campbell, Double Bass


It is no coincidence that Mozart's opera arias and concert arias seem linked in both form and substance. Most of the pieces now considered as ‘concert arias’ actually began life as custom-tailored showpieces specially commissioned for insertion into existing operas.  Mozart had been penning such arias for soprano and tenor since his boyhood, but not until 1783 did he produce one for bass.  His final concert aria for bass is ‘Per questa bella mano’, K. 612, fitted to an anonymous text.  Written in Vienna in March 1791, shortly before Mozart began work on Die Zauberflöte, this bass aria with contrabass obligato is a fascinating monochrome study created for Franz Gerl, who would be Mozart's first Sarastro, and Friedrich Pichelberger, the principal bass player in the orchestra at the Theater auf der Wieden, where the opera would be premiered.  In typical Mozart fashion, the aria begins at a graceful, waltzing Andante tempo and after a reprise of the opening section launches into a brisk allegro to an exciting conclusion with an exuberant declaration of unquenchable love.  Mozart gives both dark-timbered soloists the virtuostic treatment, challenged with leaps, arpeggios, and quick scales, as well as plenty of double-stops in thirds for the sting bass.  Special thanks to Paul Ellison, David's teacher, for lending his period 1713 double bass made by Albani.  (NOTE: Click here for our performance during Mr. Campbell's recital on April 19, 2003.)

Per questa bella mano
Per questi vaghi rai
Giuro, mio ben, che mai
Non amerò che te.
L'aure, le piante, i sassi,
Che i miei sospir ben sanno,
A te qual sia diranno
La mia costante fè.
Volgi lieti, o fieri sguardi,
Dimmi pur che m'odi o m'ami!
Sempre acceso ai dolci dardi,
Sempre tuo vo' che mi chiami,
Nè cangiar può terra o cielo
quel desio che vive in me.
By this beautiful hand,
By these lovely eyes,
I vow, my dearest, that never
Will I love another but you.
The breezes, the plants, the rocks,
Which know my sighs well
Will tell you of
My constant loyalty.
Look brighter, oh stern visage,
And tell me whether you hate or love me!
Always your tender looks have won me,
Always I want you to call me yours,
Neither earth nor heaven could change
That desire that lives in me.
Click to hear all 3 Brahms selections - RealAudio®

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)


For Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), composing lieder was anything but a sideline.  He published more than 200 solo songs with piano accompaniment, not to mention numerous vocal duets, quartets and folksong arrangements.  It is astonishing how evenly the production of these works was spread over the period 1851-88.  Brahms' lieder act as a constant counterweight to his instrumental music and serve as a model for the songlike character of many of his slow movements, as in the echo of ‘Wie Melodien zieht es Mir,’ op. 105, no. 1, in the First Violin Sonata.  Composed in 1886, it features an evocative setting of Klaus Groth's poem in which melodies bloom like flowers and words fade like the mist above arpeggiated figures.  The song has a soaring, lengthy melodic line, typical of Brahms, which unfolds in three varied strophes.  ‘Liebestreu,’ op. 3, no. 1, his very first published song in 1853 with text by Robert Reinick, evolves from a single three-note motif that permeates both bass and melody and is subjected to canonic interplay.  The modifications from one strophe to the next derive from the principle of ‘developing variation,’ which is also found in the realm of his instrumental music.  Written in 1864, ‘Von ewiger Liebe,’ op. 43, no. 1, proved to be one of Brahms most popular and most performed songs.  The text features a dialogue between a doubtful young boy escorting his sweetheart home who in turn declares their love more steadfast than steel.  The girl's reply is the most extended section of the song at which Brahms brilliantly shifts meter from 3/4 to 6/8 and tonality from A minor to A major.  The resolution to major parallels the shift in emotion to the affirmation of lasting love.  In selecting his texts Brahms was interested largely in the general content and mood of a poem, less in its formal distinction.  He felt a song should have something to say that cannot be expressed in words alone.  Brahms preferred poems that were rich in allusions and open to interpretation with music.  His favorite subject was unquestionably love, in all its forms and guises, which takes in other, more general themes such as longing and loss, resignation and retrospection.

Wie Melodien zieht es mir - RealAudio®

Wie Melodien zieht es mir (Like a melody it passes)
Text by Klaus Groth (1819-1899)

Op.105 No.1
Wie Melodien zieht es
Mir leise durch den Sinn,
Wie Frühlingsblumen blüht es,
Und schwebt wie Duft dahin;
Doch kommt das Wort und faßt es
Und führt es vor das Aug',
Wie Nebelgrau erblaßt es
Und schwindet wie ein Hauch.
Und dennoch ruht im Reime
Verborgen wohl ein Duft,
Den mild aus stillem Keime
Ein feuchtes Auge ruft.
Like a melody it passes
Softly through my mind,
Like the flowers of spring it blooms,
And floats on like a fragrance;
But the word comes and seizes it,
And brings it before my eyes,
Like the gray mist it pales then,
And vanishes like a breath.
And yet there's in the rhyme
A deeply hidden fragrance,
That gently from a dormant bud
Is called forth by tear-stained eyes.

Liebestreu - RealAudio®

Liebestreu (True Love)
Text by Robert Reinick (1805-1852)

Op.3 No.1
“O versenk', o versenk' dein Leid, mein Kind,
In die See, in die tiefe See!”
‘Ein Stein wohl bleibt auf des Meeres Grund,
mein Leid kommt stets in die Höh.’
“Und die Lieb', die du im Herzen trägst,
brich sie ab, brich sie ab, mein Kind!”
‘Ob die Blum' auch stirbt, wenn man sie bricht,
treue Lieb' nicht so geschwind.’
“Und die Treu', und die Treu' es war nur ein Wort,
in den Wind damit hinaus.”
‘O Mutter und splittert der Fels auch im Wind,
Meine Treue, die hält ihn aus.’
“Oh sink, sink your sorrow, my child,
In the sea, in the deep sea!”
‘A stone remains in the ocean's depth
My sorrow will ever rise.’
“And the love that you bear in your heart,
Break it off, break it off, my child!”
‘Though the flower will die, when plucked
True love dies not so fast.’
“And faithfulness, it was only a word,
Out with it into the wind.”
‘Oh Mother, the rock splinters in the wind,
My faithfulness will hold out.’

Von ewiger Liebe - RealAudio®

Von ewiger Liebe (Of eternal love)
Text by Josef Wenzig (1807-1876)

Op.43 No.1
Dunkel, wie dunkel in Wald und in Feld!
Abend schon ist es, nun schweiget die Welt.
Nirgend noch Licht und nirgend noch Rauch,
Ja, und die Lerche sie schweiget nun auch.
Kommt aus dem Dorfe der Bursche heraus,
Gibt das Geleit der Geliebten nach Haus,
Führt sie am Weidengebüsche vorbei,
Redet so viel und so mancherlei:
“Leidest du Schmach und betrübest du dich,
Leidest du Schmach von andern um mich,
Werde die Liebe getrennt so geschwind,
Schnell wie wir früher vereiniget sind.
Scheide mit Regen und scheide mit Wind,
Schnell wie wir früher vereiniget sind.”
Spricht das Mägdelein, Mägdelein spricht:
“Unsere Liebe sie trennet sich nicht!
Fest ist der Stahl und das Eisen gar sehr,
Unsere Liebe ist fester noch mehr.
Eisen und Stahl, man schmiedet sie um,
Unsere Liebe, wer wandelt sie um?
Eisen und Stahl, sie können zergehn,
Unsere Liebe muß ewig bestehn!”
Dark, how dark it is in the forest and field!
Night has fallen; the world now is silent.
Nowhere a light and nowhere smoke,
Yes, now even the lark is silent too.
From yonder village comes the young lad,
Taking his beloved home,
He leads her past the willow bushes,
Talking much, and of many things:
“If you suffer shame and if you grieve,
before others because of me,
Then our love shall be ended ever so fast,
As fast as we once came together.
It shall go with the rain and with the wind,
As fast as we once came together.”
Then says the maiden, the maiden says:
“Our love shall never end!
Firm is the steel and iron is firm,
Yet our love is firmer still.
Iron and steel can be recast by the smith,
But who would transform our love?
Iron and steel can melt,
Our love must last forever!”
Listen to the String Quartet - RealAudio®
Dover Beach - RealAudio®

Dover Beach, Op.3
Samuel Barber (1910-1981)
Text by Matthew Arnold (1822-1888),

Assisted by:
Katherine Bormann, Violin
Jessica Tong, Violin
Megan Fergusson, Viola
Jennifer Humphreys, Cello


As a composer, Samuel Barber (1910-1981) embodied neo-classicism and neo-romanticism simultaneously in that he did not overturn traditional forms, that his language was up-to-date without being revolutionary and that the romanticism of the late 19th century left an indelible mark on his music.  Barber often put his best into compositions for voice and was always fascinated by the association of words and music.  He was an excellent accompanist and endowed with a fine baritone voice.  In fact, he thought at various periods of making a career as a singer.  One of his first important works written for voice came very early in his career (1931) -- Dover Beach, for baritone and string quartet, Op. 3 to a profoundly pessimistic poem by Mattew Arnold.  The intensely lyrical work was first performed in 1932 by Barber himself during a private concert.  He felt Dover Beach was the seminal piece in his efforts to create extended form works for voice, followed later by Knoxville and Andromache's Farewell.  The evocative string quartet setting perfectly captures the ebb and flow of the water and the poem's mood.

The sea is calm tonight,
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straights; on the French coast the light
Gleams, and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimm'ring and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, Sweet is the night air!
Only from the long line of spray,
Where the sea meets the moon-blanch'd land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin and cease and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The sea of faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear,
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating to the breath
Of the night wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here, as on a darkling plain,
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

String Quartet


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Click to hear all 4 Walt Whitman selections - RealAudio®

Four Songs on Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

A Glimpse, from Evidence of Things Not Seen - RealAudio®

A Glimpse, from Evidence of Things Not Seen
Set by Ned Rorem (b. 1923)
From Leaves of Grass


Ned Rorem is one of America's most distinguished composers.  Although his compositions are wide-ranging, his songs are probably his most numerous and also his best musical portrait.  In his compositions, Rorem blends his keen literary sensitivity and elegant lyrical sense.  His several hundred songs exhibit discriminating taste and an sophistication of style influenced by his seven year stay in Paris.  ‘A Glimpse’ is extracted from a large work composed for four solo voices (soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor and baritone) and two pianos entitled Evidence of Things Not Seen.  Sponsored by The New York Festival of Song , in tandem with the Library of Congress, this work features astounding ensembles as well as beautiful solo songs to over fifteen different poets.  This selection characterizes a chance encounter and tender romance with two distinct alternating sections.  The first is a gentle pulsing two against three figure which dissolves into the second, more sweeping waltz segments.

One flitting glimpse, caught through an interstice,
Of a crowd of workmen and drivers in a bar-room around the stove
late of a winter night, and I unremarked in a corner,
Of a youth who loves me and whom I love,
silently approaching and seating himself near,
that he may hold me by the hand,
A long while amid the noises of coming and going,
of drinking and oath and smutty jest,
That we two, content, happy in just being together,
speaking little, perhaps not a word.

A Clear Midnight - RealAudio®

A Clear Midnight, from I was there
Set by Lee Hoiby (b. 1926)
From Leaves of Grass


Often characterized as a twentieth-century American neo-romantic, Lee Hoiby (b. 1926) believes the most important reason to compose is to complement the meaning of the text with expressive and meaningful music.  His compositions are consistently natural, expressive, accessible and vocally rewarding.  ‘A Clear Midnight’ comes from a set of five songs on Whitman poetry by Hoiby -- I was there.  The set was composed in 1988 as commissioned by baritone Peter Stewart for his New York recital debut.  The declamatory vocal line unfolds over rocking chords in the piano.  Hoiby frequently changes meter so as to accommodate the rhythm of the text.

This is thy hour, O soul, thy free slight into the wordless,
Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,
Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes thou lovest best,
Night, sleep, death and the stars.

Sing on there in the swamp - RealAudio®

Sing on there in the swamp, from "When lilacs last in the door-yard bloom'd," no.9, in Leaves of Grass
Set by Paul Hindemith (1895-1963)


Like his contemporaries, Hindemith as a composer faced a void left by the dissolution of traditional approaches to musical structure based on tonal harmony.  Although some of his earlier compositions tended towards atonality, the bulk of his work is tonal, and he developed his own system of treating harmony and tonality, based on a hierarchy of tension (dissonance) and relaxation (consonance).  Hindemith composed in almost every genre.  His concern with so many branches of music sprang from a sense of ethical responsibility that inevitably became more acute with the rise of the Nazis.  Nevertheless, his music fell under official disapproval, and moved on to the United States and taught at Yale (1940-53).  It was during this time that he composed Nine English Songs (1943), a group of songs not thematically linked, but instead displaying a wide range of style and compositional technique.  The slow tempo of this selection, ‘Sing on there in the swamp’, permits considerable harmonic nuance and the melodic progress through the song is an excellent example of the technique of open registers which allows for tonal ambiguity.  Hindemith used this song to later generate the Whitman Requiem -- ‘When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd’ in 1946.  This work was commissioned by Robert Shaw, composed when Hindemith's feelings for his adopted country were strongest and the year he and his wife became naturalized citizens.

Sing on there in the swamp,
O singer bashful and tender, I hear your notes, I hear your call,
I hear, I come presently, I understand you,
But a moment I linger, for the lustrous star has detain'd me,
The star my departing comrade holds and detains me.

To What You Said - RealAudio®

To What You Said, from Songfest
Set by Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)


Bernstein's ‘To What You Said’ is extracted from a vast orchestral song cycle entitled Songfest which incorporates texts by 13 American poets, for six solo singers and orchestra.  The piece was undertaken in 1975 on a commission for the United States Bicentennial observances of 1976.  The commission was vacated because the work could not be completed in time for the scheduled premiere, but Bernstein was by then too absorbed in the project to think of abandoning it.  The completed work was given its premiere in the Kennedy Center on October 11 of 1977 by the National Symphony Orchestra, with the composer conducting.  The strongest binding musical force in the cycle is that of unabashed eclecticism, freely reflecting the pluralistic nature of our most eclectic country.  His Whitman setting evolves out of dissonant chords over a sustained c-minor chord into an osinato middle c that repeats throughout.  The text was not published during Whitman's lifetime.  Bernstein weaves the declamatory bass part with a wordless countermelody to be sung by the other five soloists.

To what you said, passionately clasping my hand,
          this is my answer:
Though you have strayed hither, for my sake, you
          can never belong to me, not I to you.
Behold the customary loves and friendships – the
          cold guards,
I am that rough and simple person
I am he who kisses his comrade lightly on the lips
          at parting, and I am one who is kissed in return,
I introduce that new American salute
Behold love choked, correct, polite, always suspicious
Behold the received models of the parlors – What are
          they to me?
What to these young men that travel with me?

Click to hear all 4 Quixote songs - RealAudio®

Chansons de Don Quichotte (Songs of Don Quixote)


Set by Jacque Ibert (1890-1962)


Though his vocal writing is largely confined to operas, Ibert created these works for G.W. Pabst's 1933 film of the Cervantes classic.  They were sung on the soundtrack by Feodor Chaliapin who also starred in the film.  Later turned into a concert set by Ibert, they have become classics of the repertory, their witty texts evoking an improvisational setting from Ibert, a first-rate musical dramatist whose skills had been honed by a two-year stint as a pianist for silent films.  It was for the same film that the more well know Ravel Don Quixote songs were composed.  Ravel was late in submitting his settings, and Ibert's song were chosen much to Ibert's embarrassment, as he was a devoted admirer of the older composer.  These songs have a decidedly Spanish flavor with appregiated chords and flowing melismas.

Song of Departure - RealAudio®

Chanson du départ de Don Quichotte
(Don Quixote's Song of Departure)
Text by Pierre de Ronsard (1524-1585)


Ce château neuf, ce nouvel edifice
Tout enrichi de marbre et de porphyre
Qu'amour bâtit château de son empire
où tout le ciel a mis son artifice,
Est un rempart, un fort contre le vice,
Où la vertueuse maîtresse se retire,
Que l'oeil regarde et que l'esprit admire
Forçant les coeurs à lui faire service.
C'est un château, fait de telle sorte
Que nul ne peut approcher de la porte
Si des grands rois il n'a sauvé sa race
Victorieux, vaillant et amoureux
Nul chevalier tant soit aventureux
Sans être tel ne peut gagner la place.

This new castle, this new building,
All enriched with marble and porphyry,
That love built as a castle for his empire
Where all of heaven added their skills,
It is a rampart, a fortress against vice,
Where the virtuous mistress hides herself away,
That the eye beholds and the spirit admires,
Forcing hearts to her service.
It is a castle, made in such a way
That none may approach its door
Unless he has saved his people from the great kings,
Victorious, valiant and loving
No knight, no matter how adventurous,
Can enter without being such a person.

Song to Dulcinea - RealAudio®

Chanson à Dulcinée (Song to Dulcinea)
Text by Alexandre Arnoux (1884-1973)


Un an, me dure la journée
Si je ne vois ma Dulcinée.
Mais, amour a peint son visage,
Afin d'adoucir ma langueur,
Dans la fontaine et le nuage,
Dans chaque aurore et chaque fleur.

Un an, me dure la journée
Si je ne vois ma Dulcinée.
Toujours proche et toujours lointaine,
Etoile de mes longs chemins.
Le vent m'apporte son haleine
Quand il passé sur les jasmins.

A day lasts me a year
If I don't see my Dulcinea.
But, Love painted her face,
so as to soften my languor
in the fountain and the cloud
in each dawn and each flower.

A day lasts me a year
If I don't see my Dulcinea.
Always near and always far,
star of my long journeys.
the wind brings me her breath
when it blows over the jasmine flowers.

Song of the Duke - RealAudio®

Chanson du Duc (Song of the Duke)
Text by Alexandre Arnoux (1884-1973)


Je veux chanter ici la dame de mes songes
Qui m'exalte au-dessus de ce siècle de boue.
Son cœur de diamant est vierge de mensonges
La rose s'obscurcit au regard de sa joue.

Pour elle j'ai tenté les hautes aventures:
Mon bras a délivré la princesse en servage,
J'ai vaincu l'enchanteur, confondu les parjures
Et ployé l'univers à lui render l'hommage.

Dame par qui je vais, seul dessus cette terre,
Qui ne soit prisonnier de la fausse apparence,
Je soutiens contre tout chevalier téméraire
Votre éclat non pareil et votre précellence.

I want to sing here the lady of my dreams,
Who elates me above this muddy century.
Her heart of diamond is unblemished of lies.
The rose hides itself at the sight of her cheek.

For her that I attempted high adventures.
My arm freed the princess from servitude.
I defeated the enchanter, exposed the perjuries.
And bent the universe to pay her homage.

Lady, for whom I roam alone on this earth,
the only one not a prisoner of false appearances,
I maintain before any foolhardy knight
your peerless brilliance and excellence.

Song of Don Quixote's death - RealAudio®

Chanson de la mort de Don Quichotte
(Song of Don Quixote's death)
Text by Alexandre Arnoux (1884-1973)


Ne pleure pas Sancho, ne pleure pas, mon bon
Ton maître n'est pas mort, il n'est pas loin de toi
Il vit dans une île heureuse
Où tout est pur et sans mensonges
Dans l'île enfin trouvée où tu viendras un jour
Dans l'île désirée, O mon ami Sancho!
Les livres sont brûlés et font un tas de cendres.
Si tous les livres m'ont tué il suffit d'un pour que je vive
Fantôme dans la vie, et réel dans la mort
Tel est l'étrange sort du pauvre Don Quichotte.

Do not cry, Sancho, do not cry, my good man
Your master is not dead, he is not far from you
He lives on a happy island
where everything is pure and without lies
On the island found at last, where you will come one day
On the long-desired island, oh my friend Sancho!
Books burn to piles of ashes.
If all the books killed me, I just need one to live
A phantom in life and real in death
such is the strange fate of the poor Don Quixote.

Cheers, bravos, and on to the reception.

I want to extend my appreciation and gratitude to all my family, friends, teachers and colleagues for all the guidance, support, energy and love.  I have loved putting together this program and I hope this music will touch your hearts as it has mine.  May we never forget why we love music.

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