Sunday, August 12, 2012

David Del Tredici's multifarious "Alice" music

English: Edith, Lorina & Alice Liddell: This w...

Cover of
Cover of Alice Symphony
Back in 1976, American composer David Del Tredici conducted the San Francisco Symphony in the first performance of a work called Illustrated Alice: Two Scenes from Wonderland. Del Tredici continued to augment the work so that by 1991 he was able to premier his Alice Symphony at Tanglewood. Although Carroll's novels were very "out there" for its time, the composer abandoned his penchant for atonality in composing music based on the Alice books. "I couldn't imagine setting a Carroll text to dissonant music," he says. "Dissonant music can't possibly project the mood that surrounds Carroll's writings. In order to create that mood I had to rethink everything I had done up to that time. I had to think about tonality again, not because I was trying to bring back the music of an older period, but because my musical imagination had seized upon that language." Here from a later work called Final Alice is a setting of the concluding poem from Through the Looking Glass. It is an acrostic, the initial letters of the lines spelling out the name of the "real" Alice (ALICE PLEASANCE LIDDELL). (Above: Edith, Lorina, and Alice Liddell).
A boat beneath a sunny sky,
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July —
Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear —
Long had paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die.
Autumn frosts have slain July.
Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.
Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.
In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:
Ever drifting down the stream —
Lingering in the golden gleam —
Life, what is it but a dream?
"Final Alice teeters between the worlds of opera and concert music" says Del Tredeci. "It is, on the one hand, opera-like in its dramatic continuity, its arias, its different characters. On the other hand, it is a Grand Concerto for voice and orchestra, as a single person must perform all these various functions (maintaining then the familiar concert hall confrontation between soloist and orchestra). If I were to invent a category for it, I would call Final Alice an 'Opera, written in Concert Form.'"

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