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Dedicated to "Arioso" – Montpelier, Vermont and especially to Linda Radtke, mezzo-soprano
Among the many, varied poems of Emily Dickinson are love poems – passionate love poems. These poems were written of a love which never developed into an established, recognized relationship. Indeed, these were composed by a poet who rarely left her home, who was rarely seen in public. Hers was a guarded soul, a heart in hiding.
The six songs in this set span the elements of love, from the gentle "Forever at His Side to Walk" to the ecstatic "A Kingdom's Worth of Bliss," from the reflective and sensual "The Moon is Distant from the Sea" to the overtly passionate "Wild Nights!" Each mood, each poem presents its individual interpretation of love. However, this set is framed by one poem which is viewed as a summary of love, and of life's spirit, "'Tis So Much Joy." [This poem appears in song #1, and returns in song #6, "A Jewel, a Joy."]
'Tis so much joy! 'Tis so much joy! If I should fail, what poverty!
And yet, as poor as I, have ventured all upon a throw!
Here the poet speaks of the uncertainty of love (a chance, a "throw"). And yet she is willing to risk her heart, to allow a passionate love to grow there – to "venture all." And in this way, she lived her life to the fullest.
And if I gain! Oh Gun at Sea! O Bells that in the Steeples be!
The Poet's Heart is a new version of the composer's earlier work, A Heart in Hiding. The original scoring was for mixed chorus and piano, with mezzo soprano soloist. This transcription for voice and piano quartet was created in the summer of 2009 for various chamber ensembles with which the composer has been collaborating. The "commentary" role originally filled by the chorus is now presented in the strings. While often adding fullness to accompaniment figures, the strings emerge with primary expressive passages as well.
Notes by the composer