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Joseph Schwantner’s Sparrows at Northwestern University

Dec. 04, 2017

Joseph Schwantner’s <em>Sparrows</em> at Northwestern University

One of Joseph Schwantner’s most beloved compositions, Sparrows, came to Chicago on December 4 in a performance led by Daniel Cook at Northwestern University’s Galvin Recital Hall. Scored for soprano and eight players, Schwantner’s 20-minute chamber piece highlights 15 short Haiku selections from “The Autumn Wind,” written by early 19th-century Japanese poet Issa, with English translations by Lewis MacKenzie. The work was commissioned for soprano Lucy Shelton and the 20th Century Consort with support from a grant by the National Endowment for the Arts. Sparrows premiered in 1979 at the Smithsonian Institute's Hirshhorn Museum with Shelton and the 20th Century Consort, led by Christopher Kendall. The music is wonderfully diverse and incorporates a wide range of colors and musical influences into a unified soundscape.

In the liner notes to accompany the 2004 Naxos CD release of Sparrows and other works, music director and pianist Klaus Simon notes that “....Schwantner’s music absorbs the meaning and character of these naturalistic and universalist images and expresses them in a comprehensively lyrical musical form. He thus creates a series of what might be called dream-stages. These stages reach from exuberant harmonies, harsh dissonance, effusiveness finally to gentle hope.”

(Sparrows by Joseph Schwantner/20th Century Consort/Christopher Kendall, conductor)

Joseph Schwantner

Sparrows (1978)

for soprano and chamber ensemble