Beach's Concerto Comes to Life!

It’s one thing to know a piece from recordings and quite another to hear it come to life in the fluid process of rehearsal, with the 100 or so musicians involved in the give and take, the learning process of  bringing an unknown work to life—I was very privileged to hear this morning’s rehearsal of Amy Beach’s Piano Concerto!  Saet Byeol Kim is absolutely brilliant as the soloist in this virtuosic  work that Amy Beach composed to showcase her own formidable skills at the piano. For those of you who are attending the RPO’s performance  (Nov. 15 and 17), I thought I would provide here the poems of the three songs that Beach drew on for themes. These are her own songs that she wrote around the time of her marriage, and then returned to more or less 15 years later to use these rich melodies in the larger, monumental context of  the Concerto.

Jeune fille et jeune fleur   (1832) by François-René, Vicomte de Chateaubriand 
Beach, Four Songs, Op. 1, no. 3     Translation from The World’s Best Poetry  (J.D. Morris & Co., 1904)  [original French below]
The bier descends, the spotless roses too, 
 The father’s tribute in his saddest hour:
O Earth! that bore them both, thou hast thy due,—
The fair young girl and flower. 

Give them not back unto a world again,
Where mourning, grief, and agony have power,—
Where winds destroy, and suns malignant reign,—
That fair young girl and flower. 

Lightly thou sleepest, young Eliza, now,
Nor fear’st the burning heat, nor chilling shower;
They both have perished in their morning glow,—
The fair young girl and flower. 

But he, thy sire, whose furrowed brow is pale,
Bends, lost in sorrow, o’er thy funeral bower,
And Time the old oak’s roots doth now assail,
O fair young girl and flower! 

* * * **** * * * * * * **** * * *

Il descend ce cercueil, et les roses sans taches
Qu’un père y déposa, tribut de sa douleur,
Terre, tu les portas, et maintenant tu caches
Jeune fille et jeune fleur.
Ah! ne les rends jamais à ce monde profane,
A ce monde de deuil, d’angoisse et de malheurs.
Le vent brise et flétrit, le soleil brûle et fane
Jeune fille et jeune fleur.
Tu dors, pauvre Elisa, si légère d’années,
Tu ne crains plus du jour le poids et la chaleur:
Elles ont achevé leurs fraîches matinées,
Jeune fille et jeune fleur.
Mais ton père, Elisa, sur ta cendre s’incline:
Aux rides de son front a monté la pâleur,
Et vieux chêne, le temps fauche sur sa racine,
Jeune fille et jeune fleur.


Empress of Night   (Dr. H.H.A. Beach)

Amy Beach, Three Songs, Op. 2, no. 3  (1887)

Out of the darkness,
Radiant with light,
Shineth her Brightness,
Empress of Night.

As granules of gold,
From her lofty height,
Or cataract bold
(Amazing sight!)

Falleth her jewels
On ev’ry side,
Lighting the joybells,
Of Christmastide.

Piercing the treeboughs
That wave in the breeze,
Painting their shadows
Among dead leaves;

Kissing the sea foam
That flies in the air,
When tossed from its home
In waves so fair;

Silv’ring all clouds
That darken her way,
As she lifts the shrouds,
Of breaking day.


Twilight   (Dr. H.H.A. Beach)

Beach, Three Songs, Op. 2, no. 1

No sun to warm
The darkening cloud of mist,
But everywhere
The steamy earth sends up
A veil of gray and damp
To kiss the green and tender leaves
And leave its cool imprint
In limpid pearls of dew

The blackened trunks and boughs
In ghostly silhouette
Mark grimly in the coming eve
The shadows of the past. All sounds are stilled,
The birds have hushed themselves to rest
And night comes fast, to drop her pall
Till morn brings life to all.

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