Hopkins Songs

for soprano and piano (2001/2004/2009)

by Jonathan David


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Jonathan David: "Spring and Fall" from Hopkins Songs
Amy Bartram, soprano
Trudy Chan, piano


16 min


soprano, piano


The Starlight Night
Spring and Fall
The Windhover
Binsey Poplars
Pied Beauty

Program Notes

The Victorian mystic Gerard Manley Hopkins, in addition to being one of poetry’s great innovators, was also one of the most significant nature poets of the 19th century. My Hopkins Songs can be heard, on the one hand, as a nature cycle. But Hopkins was also a Jesuit priest. The odd-numbered songs in this cycle are indeed apotheoses of a natural world in which Christ and the Father are manifest, in the constellations, in the flight of a falcon, and in the beauty of color, respectively. The darker even-numbered songs are more chiefly concerned with mortality and loss, seen through the falling leaves of autumn or the sacrifice to the axe of a beloved row of aspens. The songs are linked musically by recurring motivic elements in the piano, principally a 5-note ascending figure. With the frequently shifting tonal/modal key centers I’ve hoped to express some of the ambiguities and rich textures in these strikingly original texts. The songs were written for Amy Bartram, heard on this disc, the first 3 in 2001 and 2004, the last two in 2009.

–Jonathan David