PHILIP RICE

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La razón de mi canto

tenor and piano / 5 minutes

“The reason for my song” was commissioned by Christopher Sierra for his graduate recital at the Manhattan School of Music. It is a setting of the 89th sonnet from Pablo Neruda’s “Cien Sonetos de Amor” (100 Love Sonnets). The text reads as a last will of sorts, beginning with the words “when I die,” and describing with colorful language the wishes of the speaker to commune with his or her lover in many different capacities. The text is expressively varied, and when composing, it was difficult to choose a single affect to govern the entire composition. Using a line from the third stanza, “flourish again, my flower” as inspiration, I decided to try to paint a flower garden with many different colors, to reflect the intense variegation of the text. What resulted was a large binary form with high contrast between dark, brooding chorale-like textures, and bright “flourishing” contrapuntal writing. The vocal and piano writing are equally demanding, requiring an accomplished tenor to float a pianissimo high B in the center section, “I want what I love to go on living,” while the piano explores polyrhythms and rapid, florid figurations..

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