Song of the Day

The Song of the Day feature of Sparks & Wiry Cries highlights art song performances from around the world. Feel free to contact if you would like to suggest a song, performer, or composer! 

December 8

Tonight, a rhapsodic profession of love from Hildegard Behrens and Cord Garben: Liszt's "Ich liebe dich."

December 7

Some gorgeous Strauss songs, sung gorgeously by Christa Ludwig, in a 1984 live performance with Erik Werba. Miraculously recommended to yours truly by the Youtube algorithm! The robot overlords have finally arrived, methinks.

December 6

Happy birthday, Henryk Górecki! Born on this day in 1933, Górecki achieved fame and enormous commercial success--unusual for a 20th century composer--through a recording, with soprano Dawn Upshaw, of his third symphony. For those interested in dipping a toe into (fabulous!) Polish repertoire, Górecki wrote a number of songs throughout his life that are worth exploring.

Today, an early song of his, from his 1956 opus 3: Ptak (A Bird)

December 3

I could listen to this song all night: Wolf's "Das Ständchen," performed here by Christoph Prégardien and Michael Gees. (I may have already clicked repeat about 5 times...)

December 2

I tried to find a song about taxes, but it seems they're few and far between. Instead, a moment of escapism with Kilpinen's "Illalla."

December 1

I wanted to share some of the songs of Vivian Fine tonight, and, wouldn't you know--it seems NOT ONE is on Youtube, or Spotify. Can our community rectify this, please? In lieu of her vocal writing, here is a piece she wrote for chamber ensemble in 1990 entitled "Songs and Arias."

November 30

Happy birthday, Carl Loewe! Loewe, born on this day in 1796, was a celebrated composer, pianist, tenor, and conductor. Now overshadowed by some of his more famous contemporaries (*cough* Schubert *cough*), Loewe was quite well known in his own time. In fact, he conducted the first performance of Mendelssohn's Overture "A Midsummer Night's Dream", and--beside the composer--was the other piano soloist in Mendelssohn's Concerto in A-flat major for 2 pianos and orchestra. Plus, Goethe preferred his compositions to Schubert's.

But maybe you knew all that. Maybe you've even sung some of his songs! But did you know his settings of Frauenlieben und Leben? That's right!! It might not be as dear as Schumann's, but it is certainly worth its own chance, even if only as a record of its milieux. Listen to Brigitte Fassbender and Cord Garben perform it here.

November 29

We hope to share an essay by Roger Vignoles on Britten and pacifism with you, dear readers, in the next few months. Until then, let us whet your appetite with Britten's Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo! Written when Britten was in exile, of sorts, in the USA--as a pacifist, he fled Europe before the war in 1939 and remained until 1942--these songs are mature explorations of love, written for his partner Peter Pears. And they aren't done frequently enough, in your author's humble opinion, so let this be an inspiration!

November 28

Wow! What a day. First, we are so blown away by your amazing support today, #GivingTuesday. At writing, we have received $1,904 in donations--an incredibly generous amount. Does anyone out there want to help push us over to the $2,000 level? Click below to help us make up that $96 difference.
Secondly, we hosted our first songSLAM outside of NYC, to a sold-out crowd in Ann Arbor. We can't wait to update you with the results!

In honor of our love for YOU--and for our amazing songSLAM hosts in Ann Arbor--Joan Morris and William Bolcom performing "Amor."

November 27

We're so excited! Tomorrow is not only #GivingTuesday (more on that later) but our VERY FIRST songSLAM outside of NYC!!! That's right: songSLAMs are traveling across the country this season, first to Ann Arbor and then to Minneapolis! We're extremely honored that tomorrow's will be hosted by none other than Joan Morris and William Bolcom... and we've heard that they may give a performance or two while votes are counted...

So, with bated breath (or, given the subject matter, should we say baited?)...

See you tomorrow!!!

November 26

I have to confess that I've been listening to Stephen Foster's "If You've Only Got a Mustache" on repeat (see Friday's Song of the Day). So, like it or not (and come on, what is not to like when a song is about a mustache?), today we're getting a little more! In fact, it's "Hard Times Come Again No More"--still with Jan de Gaetani and Gilbert Kalish--except Kalish is playing the melodeon now!


November 25

Happy birthday, Virgil Thomson! If you were lucky, you might have caught the performance of "Mother Of Us All" at the newly-restored Hudson Opera House in the last few weekends. And if you weren't, you should take this opportunity to listen to some of his songs. The video linked to below should take you to playlist of all of them!

Below is the first song from "Tres estampas de Niñez," "Todas las horas," performed by Sarah Pelletier and Linda Osborn.

November 24

If you're feeling bummed because you missed out on the best deals this Black Friday, never fear--according to Stephen Foster, all will become well, "If You've Only Got a Moustache"! (Not sure what that means for those of us without one, but I'm sure this must relieve at least some portion of our dear readers!)

This delightful recording comes from a period-instrument performance by Jan DeGaetani and Gilbert Kalish.

Oh! all of you poor single men,
Don’t ever give up in despair,
For there’s always a chance while there’s life
To capture the hearts of the fair,
No matter what may be your age,
You always may cut a fine dash,
You will suit all the girls to a hair
If you’ve only got a moustache,
A moustache, a moustache,
If you’ve only got a moustache.

No matter for manners or style,
No matter for birth or for fame,
All these used to have something to do
With young ladies changing their name,
There’s no reason now to despond,
Or go and do any thing rash,
For you’ll do though you can’t raise a cent,
If you’ll only raise a moustache!
A moustache, a moustache,
If you’ll only raise a moustache.

Your head may be thick as a block,
And empty as any foot-ball,
Oh! your eyes may be green as the grass
Your heart just as hard as a wall.
Yet take the advice that I give,
You’ll soon gain affection and cash,
And will be all the rage with the girls,
If you’ll only get a moustache,
A moustache, a moustache,
If you’ll only get a moustache.

November 23

Here at Sparks & Wiry Cries, we're grateful for a lot of things. Most of all, we're grateful for the beautiful music that inspires us--and for all of you who make what we do possible.
Today, we're honoring Dmitry Hvorostovsky, who tragically passed away yesterday after a valiant fight against brain cancer. He was a star in the world of opera, but he also loved song, and was a proponent of the Russian composer Georgy Sviridov. His cycle "Petersburg," a 'vocal poem' was begun in 1975 but only completed in 1995 for Hvorostovsky himself.
Below is a recording of the 6th song from the cycle, a setting of poems by Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Blok (1880 - 1921). The poem speaks of the glimmers of spring, carried on the wind.

November 22

Today, St. Cecilia's Day, is both a day of celebration and one of mourning. In the spirit of the Patron Saint of musicians, we at Sparks & Wiry Cries are grateful for the many members of our community who make what we do not only possible, but worthwhile. And we certainly cannot honor St. Cecilia without paying due homage to Benjamin Britten, who was born on this day.

But it also marks the death of a beloved member of the musical community, Dmitry Hvorostovsky. As the Times writes in his obituary, Hvorostovsky was a unique artist:
"He escaped the street-gang life as a teenager in a grim Siberian city, found his talent there despite the region’s cultural isolation, and overcame a tempestuous drinking problem that could have ruined his career.
Mr. Hvorostovsky was essentially a lyric baritone with a lighter voice. But his distinctive sound — with its russet colorings and slightly hooded quality, combining Russian-style melancholy with velvety Italianate lyricism — was so penetrating, he could send big top notes soaring. He could command the stage, and at his best he was a nuanced actor."

Tomorrow, we'll give thanks for Hvorostovsky's contributions to this field (he was a great proponent of the songs of Sviridov!). But for today, a simple lullaby from Benjamin Britten.

Thank you.

November 21

Happy birthday to Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet)! In the classical music world, Voltaire is probably most famous thanks to Bernstein's adaptation of his "Candide." But did you know that the works of Germaine Tailleferre--the only female member of Les Six--include a beautiful setting of a short poem by the birthday boy? Listen below to Bruno Laplante and Marc Durand performing Taillferre's "Souvent un air de vérité" in 1981.

November 20

Happy birthday, Meredith Monk!

November 19

This piece (Brahms' Lerchengesang, Op. 70 No. 2) has made at least one appearance as the Song of the Day already (thinking back to a divine performance from Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson and Peter Serkin). But sometimes one just needs a little more balm to soothe the corners of one's soul, so here are Mitsuko Shirai and Hartmut Höll, in a recording from 1987.

November 18

Today is apparently a great day for birthdays: Carl Maria von Weber, Louis-Jaques Daguerre (daguerreotype), William Schwenck Gilbert (Gilbert & Sullivan), Ignacy Jan Paderewski, to name just a few. But it is also Sojourner Truth's birthday, and this is a perfect occasion to refresh yourself on the life story of this history-changing woman. Truth was born into slavery near Kingston, NY, on this day in 1787, making today her 230th birthday. She devoted her life to fighting for equal rights for women and people of color, becoming the first African-American woman to win a court case against a white man, in order to secure the return of her son. After feeling the call of religion, she changed her name from Isabella Baumfree to Sojourner Truth, and became known for her speechmaking.
But there is one special moment in her life where she used song instead of speech, and this is why she is the perfect woman to honor in today's Song of the Day: She was preaching at a Camp Meeting in Northampton, MA, in 1844. An unruly mob threatened to disrupt the proceedings, and Truth first hid--afraid that she, as the only black woman present, would be attacked first. But her courage overcame her fear, and she went up to a hill and sang “in her most fervid manner, with all the strength of her most powerful voice, the hymn on the resurrection of Christ." The hymn was the first of an hour of songs and prayers that eventually succeeded in quieting the mob and sending them away.
Unfortunately, I can't find a record of this song--no recording, or even any other reference to it outside of contemporary accounts of her life. So we will end with the text and a continuation of the account above:
It was early in the morning--it was early in the morning,
Just at the break of day--
When he rose--when he rose--when he rose,
And went to heaven on a cloud.'
All who have ever heard her sing this hymn will probably remember it as long as they remember her. The hymn, the tune, the style, are each too closely associated with to be easily separated from herself, and when sung in one of her most animated moods, in the open air, with the utmost strength of her most powerful voice, must have been truly thrilling.

November 17

Current mood: Jeanine de Bique (have you heard her "Rejoice Greatly"?!?) singing Wolf's "Das verlassene Mägdlein."

November 16

A beautiful work by Arvo Pärt tonight, "L'Abbé Agathon," performed Shanon Mercer in a concert programed by Soundstreams, in their words, "one of the world’s leading contemporary music companies, and the largest global presenter of new Canadian music. Artistic Director Lawrence Cherney and Executive Director Ben Dietschi are committed to showcasing the work of living and international composers with a focus on innovative thematic and experiential programming."

November 15

Hearty congratulations and big thank you to our participants (and audience) who came out to our 2nd annual songSLAM last night in NYC!!!
In honor of the occasion, Mahler's absolutely delightful "Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht?" (who doesn't love a jolly drinking song?), which ends with the following stanza:
Wer hat denn das schöne Liedlein erdacht?
Es haben's drei Gäns übers Wasser gebracht,
Zwei graue und eine weiße;
Und wer das Liedlein nicht singen kann,
Dem wollen sie es pfeifen.

Performed beautifully, and with much "keck" by Christian Gerhaher and Gerold Huber.

November 13

We can't believe our second annual songSLAM is... TOMORROW!!! Get ready to cheer for your favorite composer/pianist/singer team at the HERE Arts Center in NYC!
In the meantime, keep your jets cool (or perhaps turn them down to a nice, slow burn) by listening to this Barber song, "In the Deep Pinewood," performed by Thomas Hampson and John Browning.

November 12

We're busy gearing up for the 2nd Inaugural songSLAM in NYC, this Tuesday at 8:30 PM. Will we see you there? Like last year, the songSLAM will be hosted by composer Tom Cipullo. To get you in the mood, here is a delightful recording of Paul Sperry and Tom Cipullo performing the last song from "Another Reason Why I Don't Keep a Gun in the House."

November 11

Today, Veteran's Day, marks the 99th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice. Roderick Williams and Julius Drake perform Gerald Finzi's "Channel Firing," a setting of the Thomas Hardy poem below.

That night your great guns, unawares,
Shook all our coffins as we lay,
And broke the chancel window-squares;
We thought it was the Judgment-day

And sat upright. While drearisome
Arose the howl of wakened hounds:
The mouse let fall the altar-crumb,
The worms drew back into the mounds,

The glebe cow drooled. Till God called, "No;
It's gunnery practice out at sea
Just as before you went below;
The world is as it used to be:

"All nations striving strong to make
Red war yet redder. Mad as hatters
They do no more for Christés sake
Than you who are helpless in such matters.

"That this is not the judgment-hour
For some of them's a blessed thing;
For if it were they'd have to scour
Hell's floor for so much threatening ...

"Ha, ha. It will be warmer when
I blow the trumpet (if indeed
I ever do; for you are men,
And rest eternal sorely need)."

So down we lay again. "I wonder,
Will the world ever saner be,"
Said one, "than when He sent us under
In our indifferent century!"

And many a skeleton shook his head.
"Instead of preaching forty year,"
My neighbour Parson Thirdly said,
"I wish I had stuck to pipes and beer."

Again the guns disturbed the hour,
Roaring their readiness to avenge,
As far inland as Stourton Tower,
And Camelot, and starlit Stonehenge.

November 10

Happy birthday to Friedrich von Schiller! Most famous, naturally, for his "Ode to Joy," Schiller's texts appear in settings by many other German composers, from Zelter and Loewe to Schubert and Cornelius. Today, we're featuring a song by Fanny Mendelssohn that is blustery enough to suit today's frigid weather in the northeast, "Der Eichwald brauset"! Performed by Susana Gaspar and Malcolm Martineau.

November 9

Okay. Bear with me here... I just heard a beautiful performance of Brahms Op. 118, and when the pianist (Paul Lewis) got to No. 5, I couldn't help but think of Elgar... anyone else hear that connection? Just me? Sea Pictures was written just two years after Brahms' death, when Elgar was 56, so it stands to reason that the younger composer would have taken inspiration from the great works of Brahms--written just 6 years earlier. But somehow I never thought about the two men in the same sentence until tonight! Hope you enjoy listening to them both!

November 8

Reflecting that we're better when we're working together: as humans for a more just future for all, and as singers and pianists collaborating for a beautiful performance. Both on display here, in "Majority," with text and music by Charles Ives.

The Masses! The Masses! The Masses have toiled,
Behold the works of the World!
The Masses are thinking,
Whence comes the thought of the World!
The Masses are singing,
Whence comes the Art of the World!
The Masses are yearning,
Whence comes the hope of the World.
The Masses are dreaming,
Whence comes the visions of God!
God's in His Heaven,
All will be well with the World!

November 7

Remembering Steven Stucky today, on his birthday.

November 6

The October Revolution began on November 7, 1917, transforming life for the entire country of Russia and beyond. Anna Akhmatova (born Anna Andreyevna Gorenko) wrote masterfully about life under the Stalinist regime, and many of her works were set by important Russian composers, including Prokofiev. "Солнце комнату наполнило" (The Sun Filled the Room) comes from Prokofiev's "Five Poems of Anna Akhmatova" and is performed here by Tamara Sinjavskaya and Zinayda Kogan.

For past Songs of the Day, see the Sparks & Wiry Cries Facebook page.

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