The Shakepeare Concert Series, Vol. 9: Music to Hear

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MUSIC TO HEAR, Joseph Summer’s follow up to WHO IS SYLVIA from Navona Records off his Shakespeare Concerts set, is the result of the composer’s lifelong obsession with poetry. The album pairs the works of contemporary poets as well as Shakespeare with Summer’s music in order to express deeper significance than either words or music are capable of on their own. The first two tracks on the record—both for string quartet with a female vocalist—set sonnets by the eminent poet Robert Kelly. They blossomed out of Summer’s friendship with Kelly; in return for Kelly having written a poem about Summer’s music, Summer set the poet’s “Sonnet 4, for Lydia” for mezzo soprano and string quartet as well as “Spring Sonnet” for soprano and quartet.

These contemporary verses are paired Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 8” which cries out “Music to hear, why hear’st thou music sadly?” Later comes Boston composer Tom Schnauber’s world-premiere setting of Wordsworth’s “Scorn Not the Sonnet” for mezzo-soprano and piano. After two more settings of Shakespeare, we hear composer Binna Kim give life to Lady Macbeth’s “Give Me Your Hand.” The piece for mezzo-soprano, cello, and piano is chillingly evocative, portraying Lady Macbeth’s descent into madness in the wake of the murders she helped perpetrate. Summer’s settings of Sonnets 97 & 98 follow, whose rich string textures are full of love and agonized longing. The work ends with Summer’s original “Epilogue to the Tempest.” The marriage of music and poetry is both ancient and elemental. In his musical settings, Summer plums a region of the human soul rarely exposed in the bustle of daily life. In MUSIC TO HEAR, Summer invites listeners to claim this deeper humanity, just as Shakespeare did at the Globe Theatre some 400 years earlier.

Product Description:

  • Release Date: May 22, 2020

  • Catalog Number: NV6283

  • UPC: 896931005838

  • Label: Navona