Samuel, Rhian: Summer Songs. Medium Voice and Piano
1. In Summer (Denise Levertov) (d – f’)
2. A Dragonfly in the Sun (Zulfikar Ghose) (c – g’)
The poetry of Denise Levertov (1923-1997) and of Zulfikar Ghose (born 1935) is the inspiration for the two Summer Songs by Rhian Samuel, first performed by tenor James Gilchrist and pianist William Vann at The Forge, Camden Town, on 10 May 2012 as part of the London English Song Festival.
Though Levertov chiefly explored themes of left-wing politics and of religion in her work, her poem ‘In Summer’ is a brief aubade, uncomplicated by philosophical overtones. Sunrise is observed with a pensive humour that in Samuel’s setting is registered through the interrupted flow of predominantly pastoral textures. Complementary to Levertov’s image of the slow diurnal transformation of light, ‘A Dragonfly in the Sun’ by the Pakistan-born poet Zulfikar Ghose presents the intense perception of a moment, the myriad colours of the creature’s wing an unalloyed sensation evoked in words and music.
Summer Songs would suit a confident and accomplished singer who is looking in particular for a concise example of contemporary vocal material as a vehicle for sensitivity of declamation and the artful communication of vividly contrasting moods in English.