One of the more interesting end-of-term recitals to be performed this coming week at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) is likely to be an offering of art song from the first half of the twentieth century in a program prepared by Jill Morgan Brenner. Brenner already holds a Master’s Degree in Vocal Performance from SFCM, but she may also be familiar to those who attended the public performances given by the Opera Academy of California during this past summer’s training program. Brenner’s program will provide a snapshot of early twentieth century modernism as represented by the music of Samuel Barber, Francis Poulenc, and Benjamin Britten. Her accompanist will be pianist Mai-Linh Pham.
The entire first half of the program will be devoted to Barber with the performance of two of his song collections. The more familiar of these, the ten songs in the 1953 Opus 29 Hermit Songs, will begin the concert. These are English translations of the marginalia of anonymous Irish monks found in manuscripts dating from the eighth to the thirteenth centuries. Not all of these are necessarily “poetic;” and one is actually a two-line aphorism (probably the most polite way to describe the text of the song entitled “Promiscuity”). This will be followed by the five songs in the Opus 27 Mélodies passagères (fleeting songs), composed between 1950 and 1951 and based on five poems written by Rainer Maria Rilke in French. Barber dedicated this set of Poulenc, and it is sometimes described as an Americanized version of French art song.
Listeners will be able to draw their own conclusions about this assertion, because the intermission will be followed by a performance of Poulenc’s Fiançailles pour rire (whimsical betrothal). These are settings of six poems by Louise de Vilmorin composed in 1939. This is generally recognized as Poulenc’s most famous cycle for soprano voice, making it very likely that Barber would have been quite familiar with it through his interests in the work of other composers.
The program will then conclude by honoring the 100th birthday of Benjamin Britten with a performance of On this island. Composed in 1937, these are five setting of poems by W. H. Auden. Britten first came to know Auden in 1935, when they worked together of the documentary films Coal Face and Night Mail. Britten became quite interested in Auden’s poetry, and the five poems in On this island were all taken from the collection Look Stranger!, which Auden had published in 1936.
Brenner’s recital will take place at 8 p.m. this coming Thursday, December 12, in the SFCM Recital Hall. SFCM is located at 50 Oak Street, a short walk from the Van Ness Muni station. Admission is free, and no tickets will be required.