Talking of Michelangelo (2009)

For tenor voice and piano
Texts by T. S. Eliot
Duration: 21 minutes
Winner of the 2010 Robert Helps Prize

World premiere: February 12, 2010
Robert Helps Festival, Tampa
Brad Diamond, tenor; Dharshini Tambiah, piano

New York premiere: April 6, 2010
Manhattan School of Music, New York
Chris Lysack, tenor; Jonathan Howard Katz, piano

This work is available for retail purchase from Theodore Front Musical Literature.
This work is available for institutional purchase from Harrassowitz (OttoEditions) and Theodore Front Musical Literature.

Program note: I wrote this on the heels of my first song cycle and chose three early poems by T. S. Eliot to set for tenor. The first two, “La figlia che piange” and “Hysteria,” are but short introductions to the main body of the work, a full setting (with epigraph from Dante) of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” one of Eliot’s major works and a seminal poem of American modernism. It’s a challenging work, with a sprawling structure, heated emotions, and phrases that have become iconic in the lexicon, and I felt it demanded a sympathetic but unsentimental treatment to hold the piece together. The poems also carry a reservoir of self-pity and misogyny that can be seen more clearly today than in Eliot’s time; the challenges as composer were to acknowledge them and view the speaker with compassion, but without glorifying or aggrandizing these characteristics. This work won the 2010 Robert Helps Prize and was premiered at the Robert Helps Festival in Tampa, Florida.

The full work may be heard here: