Two Songs

(1950)

These youthful songs, for soprano and piano, are bursting with sap, threateningly volcanic like the “young” island described in Herman Melville's novel Mardi, a rarely-read work from which Helps gleaned a duo of strange and evocative texts. The language of the poems is incantatory, barely in English for today's ears (“Not climbing a moldering arch / But upheld by the firgreen larch...”) The twenty-two year-old composer entwines them in richly proliferating counterpoint. What further to say about these lovely songs: they are memorable. The Monument webmaster attended a lunch where fellow-composer Earl Kim sang to an astonished Helps the opening bars of the first song from memory, forty years after the premiere (and only public performance of the work).


--from the Robert Helps Web Monument


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