Allen Shearer (baritone)
Peter Josheff (clarinet)
This work is a setting of three poems by 16th and 17th century Spanish poets. I view the songs as a scene, painted perhaps by Velasquez, in which a man sits in a room, alone, except for an attendant-keeper placed there to guard, entertain, and humor him, and perhaps participate in his delusions.
Vier Goethe Mignon Lieder [Four Goethe Mignon Songs]
Judith Nelson (soprano)
Marijke Verberne (violoncello)
Mignon is a strange child of twelve in Goethe's great novel Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (published in 1795). Many generations of composers have set the texts of the four songs which she sings in the novel. On re-reading Goethe's poems, I was struck by how modern they seemed. Looking through a number of the famous settings of these particular texts - by Schubert, Schumann, Liszt, Wolf - it occurred to me that only Schubert conveys the fact that Mignon is a child, precocious, but nonetheless a child.
Sibylline Fragments (1994)
Anna Carol Dudley, Cheryl Keller, Judith Nelson (sopranos)
Paul Binkley (guitar)
Sandra Soderlund (harpsichord)
Dan Levitan (harp)
The Sibylline tradition of inspired prophesy dates from the 7th century BC in Asia Minor, though the Greek texts of the "Oracula Sibyllina", written between 150 BC and 300 AD, were only compiled in Byzantium in the 6th century AD. It is this vision of the Sibyls which we see in the Sistine Chapel and the marble floors of the cathedral in Siena. One myth relates that the Sibyl was a nymph who offered herself to Apollo in exchange for eternal life. When she refused to consummate the agreement, Apollo nontheless granted the Sibyl her wish, albeit as a punishment, for she'd neglected to ask for eternal youth. For a thousand years she lived on and on, aging and diminishing, until nothing was left of her but her voice: a hissing sound coming from a bottle. The work was commissioned by Judith Nelson and Anna Carol Dudley for their ensemble of three singers (with continuo instruments) "A Thrill of Sopranos". The original ensemble consisted of three virtuoso singers whose diverse timbres blended remarkably well. I took advantage of their differing vocal characteristics in writing the piece. The Sibylline Fragments were first performed in California at the Berkeley Festival in 1994.
John Patrick Thomas was born in Denver, Colorado in 1941.
His music studies began as a member of the American Boychoir in Princeton, New Jersey. At the age of 16, he became a composition student of Darius Milhaud and Charles Jones at the Aspen Music School and later studied with Andrew Imbrie and Seymour Shifrin at the University of California at Berkeley. After teaching at the State University of New York in Buffalo, he began a concert and opera career as a countertenor with a special interest in new music which brought him into contact with composers such as David Del Tredici, Lukas Foss, Betsy Jolas, Mauricio Kagel, Michael Finnissy, Elisabeth Lutyens, and Krzysztof Penderecki. He was also a founding member of The Five Centuries Ensemble. He currently lives in Hamburg, Germany, where he divides his time between composing and teaching singing. Since 2003, Thomas has been a member of the faculty of the Musical Department at the Folkwang Hochschule in Essen.