i>September / In the Harem Garden / Havde jeg, o havde jeg en dattersøn, o ja!
Wilhelm Stenhammar composed Tre körvisor on texts by the celebrated Danish novelist and poet Jens Peter Jacobsen in 1890. At this early stage in his career, Stenhammar, like other major Scandinavian composers, was heavily influenced by the music of Wagner, Liszt and Brahms. However, Tre körvisor also offers whiffs of the renaissance style polyphony that would become prominent in his later works. The three songs trace a progression from the somber to the playful. In “September,” the growing shadows and the evening breeze that sighs in the leaves of the lime tree—the romantic icon of the forlorn—are musically paralleled by phrases that often end on dissonances, a rich harmonic palate that runs the gamut of late romantic chromatic sonorities, and the song’s minor-mode tonality. Somewhat more optimistic is (“In the Harem Garden”). Here the sleeping garden of the harem, where moon kisses the roses and lilies, is dignified by a largely diatonic, hymn-like, texture. However, half-diminished seventh chords creep into the setting and make the song’s climax (and other pivotal moments) more wistful than affirmative, and give them an erotic charge that is at odds with the purity of the hymn. The jaunty finale “Havde jeg, o havde jeg en dattersøn, o ja!” (“If I had, oh if I had a grandson, oh!”), on the other hand, is all sunshine: a brisk tempo and agile soprano line that dances above the texture give the speaker’s reverie about a chest full of money and a home in the meadows a character of carefree playfulness.
Thursday, March 2, 2006