Voyages (1994) Robert Convery
1. I 3:19
2. II 3:12
3. III 4:02
4. IV 5:17
5. V 4:29
6. VI 5:55
Voyages, Cantata No. 2, Op. 41 (2018) Benjamin C.S. Boyle
7. I Avowal: Bind us in time 2:10
8. II Seascape: Above the fresh ruffles of the surf 4:38
9. III Pairings: And yet this great wink of eternity 3:40
10. IVa Aria: This tendered theme of you 2:26
11. IVb Aria: And so, admitted through black swollen gates 4:28
12. V Descent: Meticulous, infrangible, and lonely 5:51
13. VI Chorale: Draw in your head 1:47
At first, two settings of the same words may seem odd album mates. But, owing to the riches to be mined in Hart Crane’s Voyages, two settings of this masterpiece of early-20th-century poetry complement each other in myriad ways. These are two major works from two of the most creative artists writing for voice today. As conductor Donald Nally remarks in his program note, “We’ve found thousands of ways to sing ‘Lord, have mercy.’ What are two ways of finding the music in, ‘the bottom of the sea is cruel?’” Indeed, that line is set so distinctly, so chillingly, by each composer that their individual world-views, expressed in counterpoint, linger long after the music has ended.
Robert Convery’s Voyages follows Crane’s words verbatim, capturing the structure, exploring each poem as a miniature life lived, and focusing on the inherently musical meters of Crane’s dazzling vocabulary. Convery’s world is one in which subtle harmonic shifts open up forgotten emotional universes, and abrupt tempo changes instantaneously transform a serene moment to one of complex feelings and desperation. His focus on color would lead one to believe the work was written for The Crossing.
For his Voyages, Cantata No. 2, Op. 41 Benjamin Boyle has created a cantata-like structure excerpting some of Crane’s most intimate and wrenching moments. With the addition of a string chamber orchestra, it feels as if Boyle has considered Crane’s words distilled and he has blown a kind new life into them – a very personal response to the feelings Crane hopes to evoke through imagery. The double-choir moment of “Meticulous, infrangible, and lonely” – in which the edges of a relationship become blurred and all seems like a memory – is as heart-breaking as music gets. The solo moments offer a wide range: fragile, vibrant, warm, hopeful – all executed here with virtuosity and breadth.