Songs of Envious Time

  • Composer: Bramwell Tovey 
  • Publisher: manuscript
  • Canadian Composition: Yes
  • Duration: 11:30

Program Notes:

(Aubade) Tovey, Music Director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, wrote a suite of three Jacobean songs for Elektra in 2012, called “Songs of Envious Time”. In this first movement on a poem by Sir William Davenant (1603 — 1663), the scene is a bedroom at dawn, where we hear the lark sing outside the window. The second verse describes various tradesmen who have to get up early. But why should a lover?

(Corinna’s Going a-Maying) This is the second of the Songs of Envious Time, offering the words of Robert Herrick (1591-1674) in a delightful, pleading entreaty from one young person to another to get out of bed on a beautiful spring morning to go “a-Maying”. “Take no care for jewels for your gown or hair: Wash, dress, be brief in praying…” and get outside to find love while we’re still young.

(An Epitaph Upon Husband and Wife) In the third and final movement of Songs of Envious Time, we hear of a husband and wife who are reunited, lying side by side in the “marriage bed” of their shared grave.

Conductor Notes:

SSA and various orchestrations; This suite of three pieces comprises “Aubade” (the morning equivalent of a Serenade), “Corinna’s Going A-Maying” and “An Epitaph Upon Husband and Wife”. Commissioned by Elektra for our second Tapestry International Celebration of Women’s Choirs in 2012, the work was originally scored with accompaniment of brass quintet and organ. We later performed it with piano alone, and in 2014 performed an orchestration by the composer for string orchestra, flutes, horn, and percussion. All have their merits, but the orchestrated version is preferable, in my view.

The texts are by 17th Century English poets Davenant, Herrick, and Crawshaw. The first and third are slow and evocative. The middle movement is nimble and enthusiastic. The harmonic language is challenging but very satisfying.

Durations: Aubade: 2:20 Corinna:4:20 Epitaph: 4:30

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