Opus number:  58

Title: Shakespeare Sonnets

Instrumentation:  soprano and piano

Date written: May 2001

Length: ca. ten minutes

Dedication: Catherine Thorpe


Program notes: These four songs were written in the spring of 2001 and are dedicated to Catherine Thorpe in appreciation of her first performance of my “Ten Poems of William Blake.” The formal structure of Shakespeare’s sonnets is directly mirrored in the music. Each sonnet contains three sections of four lines each and a two-line summation at the end. The third song is a parody of the first song’s ardent seriousness.


Sonnet No. 128

1. How oft, when thou, my music, music playst

Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds
With thy sweet fingers when thou gently swayst
The wirey concord that mine ear confounds,
Do I envy those jacks that nimble leap
To kiss the gentle inward of thy hand,
Whilst my poor lips, which should that harvest reap,
At the wood’s boldness by thee blushing stand.
To be so tickled they would change their state
And situation with those dancing chips,
O’er whom they fingers walk with gentle gait,
Making dead wood more blest than living lips.
Since saucy jacks so happy are in this,
Give them thy fingers, me thy lips, to kiss.

2. Sonnet No. 29

When, in disgrace with Fortune in mens’ eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends Possessed,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Happy I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love rememb’red such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

3. Sonnet No. 145

Those lips that Love’s own hand did make
Breathed forth the sound that said “I hate”
To me that languished for her sake;
But when she saw my woeful state,
Straight to her heart did mercy come,
Chiding that tongue that ever sweet
Was used ingiving gentle doom,
And taught it thus anew to greet:
“I hate” she altered with an end
That follwed it as gentle day
Doth follow night who like a fiend,
From heav’n to hell is flown away.
“I hate” from hate away she threw,
And saved my life, saying, “not you.”

4. Sonnet No. 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou at more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May:
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, of Nature’s changing course, untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest,
Nor shall Death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou growest.
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Program notes: Songs arraned as Four Lyrics for trumpet and piano. See op. 60.