Suzanne Farrin: Dolce la Morte

, composer


Dolce La Morte, Suzanne Farrin's monodrama for countertenor and ensemble, is based on Michelangelo's love poetry inspired by the young Roman nobleman Tommaso de Cavalieri. Farrin's sensual writing elegantly imports the aesthetics of the Italian Renaissance into a contemporary music context. The International Contemporary Ensemble is joined by countertenor Eric Jurenas for a deeply felt performance. 


# Audio Title/Composer(s) Time
Total Time 45:52

dolce la morte

01I. unico spirto
I. unico spirto
02II. figlia
II. figlia
03III. come serpe
III. come serpe
04IV. freddo al sol
IV. freddo al sol
05V. spirto d'amore
V. spirto d'amore
06VI. veggio
VI. veggio
07VII. unico spirto
VII. unico spirto
08VIII. ne' marmi
VIII. ne' marmi
09IX. Prisoner Poems
IX. Prisoner Poems
10X. l'onde
X. l'onde
11XI. rendete
XI. rendete

In 1532 Michelangelo met the young Roman nobleman Tommaso de' Cavalieri. Though the details of their relationship are unknown, we know that the meeting inspired the artist to compose intense poetry that deals with the joy and complexity of desire and spiritual fulfillment. The two men also exchanged "presentation" drawings, which were intended to be lessons for Tommaso. Mainly depicting stories from Greek mythology, they include some famous works such as Phaeton, Ganymede and il Sogno. The men became life-long friends and Tommaso was among those at Michelangelo's side when he passed in 1564.

For me, the visual works that mostly closely express a feeling similar to the love poems are the Prisoner Statues, which now beautifully stand before the David at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence. These are the unfinished statues whose bodies look as though they were abandoned in mid-thought. Each form exists in many different stages of emergence: a perfect bicep, a shin sinking into rough stone, a faceless head. There is great motion and strength in these figures imprisoned in the stone. They are both submerged and unbound: muscles strain and reach like a contrapposto between life and non-living.

The poems contained in this CD also seem to be in a process. His speech cannot fully contain the overwhelming impetus of physical love, which at times becomes too much for the sonnets to bear. They stretch and are torn out of shape. They sing, shed their form and fall silent. In composing dolce, I hoped to create a sound world that inhabits the space between creation and being.

-Suzanne Farrin

Producers: Suzanne Farrin, International Contemporary Ensemble, Jacob Greenberg
Session Producers: Suzanne Farrin, Jacob Greenberg
Editing Producer: Jacob Greenberg
Recording Engineer: Ryan Streber,

Digital Editing, Mixing, Post-Production: Ryan Streber
Assistant Editors: Teng Chen Charles Mueller
Graphic Design: Aroussiak Gabrielian,

Recorded at Oktaven Audio Mount Vernon, New York February 12 - 13, 2018.
Music published by Monito Music.

Eric Jurenas, countertenor

James Austin Smith, oboe; Rebekah Heller, bassoon; Bridget Kibbey, harp; Miranda Cuckson, violin; Wendy Richman, viola; Kivie Cahn-Lipman, 'cello and lirone; Randy Zigler, double bass

David Fulmer, conductor

Images From Doug Fitch's original production were created by Doug Fitch, Monica Duncan and Ross Karre.

Suzanne Farrin

Suzanne Farrin is a composer who explores the interior worlds of instruments and the visceral potentialities of sound. Her music has been performed by some of the great musicians of today on stages across Europe and North and South America.

Earlier works have concentrated on establishing an intensity and personal language through careful study of solo instruments along with the interpretive personalities that come with them. Those works include pieces for solo strings (corpo di terra, for cello; Time is a Cage for violin and uscirmi di braccia, for viola and piano or bass drum). Though they have now been played by many interpreters, they were expressly written for people close to Suzanne (Julia Lichten, cello; Cal Wiersma, violin and Antoine Tamestit and Markus Hadulla, viola and piano). That intimacy is a productive space for her: it is as if exploring the very personal habits, sounds and physicality of each brings her closer to a more universal experience.

This search for transcendence has more recently been applied to vocal music. In dolce la morte, Suzanne felt she was expressing the inherent conflicts, contractions and corporal strife that exists in the great master’s love poetry. The piece is her own, but the “mask” of Michelangelo provided a productive mouthpiece from which she could project her own resonance and desire.

Her music has been featured at venues and festivals including The Gothenburg Art Biennial, Mostly Mozart, Matrix, Alpenklassik, Music in Würzburg, BAM NextWave, Theaterforum (Germany), Town Hall Seattle, Carnegie’s Weill Hall, Symphony Space, Wigmore Hall, the Walker Art Center, Centro de Artes de la Universidad Nacional de San Martín (Argentina) and, in New York (where she lives) The Stone, Spectrum, Subculture, Miller Theater, Merkin Hall, Wavehill, Lincoln Center, the Park Avenue Armory, and Joe’s Pub, among many others.

In addition to composing, Suzanne is a performer of the ondes Martenot, an early electronic instrument created by the engineer Maurice Martenot in France in the 1920s as a response to the simultaneous destruction and technological advances of WWI. Her life as an interpreter on the instrument has taken her to venues such as the Abrons Arts Center in NYC, Centro de Artes in Buenos Aires as well as television, where she was was recently featured in an episode directed by Roman Coppola on the Amazon series Mozart in the Jungle.

Suzanne is the Frayda B. Lindemann Professor of Music and Chair at Hunter College and The CUNY Graduate Center, where she teaches composition. She holds a doctorate in from Yale University. Corpo di Terra (New Focus Recordings) is devoted entirely to her work, which may also be heard on the VAI, Signum Classics, Tundra and Albany Records labels. She is currently the Frederic A. Juilliard/Walter Damrosch Rome Prize winner in Composition.

Eric Jurenas

Declared by the New York Times as an artist with “beautiful, well-supported tone and compelling expression,” and defined as having an “exceptionally clear tone with vocal flexibility,” (Cleveland Plain Dealer) American countertenor Eric Jurenas is quickly making a name for himself in both the opera and concert scene. After a brief stint as a baritone in his first years of university studies, he made the daunting switch to the opposite side of the vocal spectrum.

Eric has worked with several groups as a featured artist, including The Wiener Staatsoper, Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, Komische Oper Berlin, Theater an der Wien, The Colorado Symphony, Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe, The Santa Fe Opera, The Glimmerglass Festival, Opera Philadelphia, Innsbruck Early Music Festival, Opera Lafayette, Wolf Trap Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, American Bach Soloists, among others.

Highlights of this upcoming season include performances on Broadway in Farinelli and the King, the MET Museum Live Arts series with International Contemporary Ensemble, a world premiere concert with Daniel Barenboim, solo recitals in both Versailles and Innsbruck, Brooklyn Art Song Society and productions with Komische Oper Berlin and Oper Frankfurt.

An avid competitor around the country and the world, Eric has received awards from several vocal competitions, including a prestigious award from The Sullivan Foundation, 1st place in The Renata Tebaldi International Competition, 2nd place in the Corneille International Competition, 3rd place in the Cesti Competition for Baroque Opera, 1st place in the Handel Aria Competition, The International Competition -‘s-Hertogenbosch, 1st place in the Hal Leonard Online Vocal Competition, Dayton Opera Guild Competition, Kentucky Bach Choir Competition, and the Bel Canto Chorus of Milwaukee Competition. He is a proud recipient of a Novick Career Advancement Grant.

He received his Masters degree from The Juilliard School in New York City and his Bachelors from the College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) at the University of Cincinnati. He is a student of Dr. Robert White Jr., William McGraw, and George Gibson.

International Contemporary Ensemble

Called “America’s foremost new music group” by The New Yorker, The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) is an artist collective that is transforming the way music is created and experienced. As performer, curator, and educator, ICE explores how new music intersects with communities across the world. The ensemble’s 35 members are featured as soloists, chamber musicians, commissioners, and collaborators with the foremost musical artists of our time. Works by emerging composers have anchored ICE’s programming since its founding in 2001, and the group’s recordings and digital platforms highlight the many voices that weave music’s present. A recipient of the American Music Center’s Trailblazer Award and the Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, ICE was also named the 2014 Musical America Ensemble of the Year. The group currently serves as artists-in-residence at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts’ Mostly Mozart Festival, and previously led a five-year residency at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. ICE was featured at the Ojai Music Festival from 2015 to 2017, and at recent festivals abroad such as gmem-CNCM-marseille and Vértice at Cultura UNAM, Mexico City. Other performance stages have included the Park Avenue Armory, The Stone, ice floes at Greenland’s Diskotek Sessions, and boats on the Amazon River.

New initiatives include OpenICE, made possible with lead funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which offers free concerts and related programming wherever ICE performs, and enables a working process with composers to unfold in public settings. DigitICE, a free online library of over 350 streaming videos, catalogues the ensemble’s performances. ICE's First Page program is a commissioning consortium that fosters close collaborations between performers, composers, and listeners as new music is developed. EntICE, a side-by-side education program, places ICE musicians within youth orchestras as they premiere new commissioned works together; inaugural EntICE partners include Youth Orchestra Los Angeles and The People's Music School in Chicago. Summer activities include Ensemble Evolution at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, in which young professionals perform with ICE and attend workshops on topics from interpretation to concert production. Yamaha Artist Services New York is the exclusive piano provider for ICE.

David Fulmer

Winner of the 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship, and 2016 Koussevitzky Award, David Fulmer has garnered numerous international accolades for his bold compositional aesthetic combined with his thrilling performances. A leader in his generation of composer-performers, the success of his Violin Concerto at Lincoln Center in 2010 earned international attention and resulted in immediate engagement to perform the work with major orchestras and at festivals in the United Kingdom, Europe, North America, and Australia. Fulmer made his European debut performing and recording his concerto with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Matthias Pintscher in 2011. That same year, Fulmer made his debut at Tanglewood appearing with the work. A surge of recent and upcoming commissions include new works for the New York Philharmonic, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Scharoun Ensemble of the Berlin Philharmonic, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, ProMusica Chamber Orchestra, Carnegie Hall, Alte Oper Frankfurt, Salzburg Foundation, BMI Foundation, Concert Artists Guild, Washington Performing Arts, Kennedy Center, Fromm Music Foundation, Koussevitzky Foundation, and Tanglewood.

As conductor, Fulmer recently led the NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic Orchestra, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Elision Ensemble, Sydney Modern Music Ensemble, along with appearances at the New York Philharmonic Biennial, Tanglewood Music Festival, and Lucerne Festival. Recent and upcoming highlights include important debuts leading the Ensemble Intercontemporain, Asko Ensemble, South Netherlands Philharmonic, and assisting concerts and projects with the New York Philharmonic. Fulmer made a triumphant return to the NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic Orchestra last season, which included a collaboration with IRCAM. This season he will return as curator and conductor of the Mannes American Composers Ensemble in programs of 20th and 21st Century music, and continue his close collaboration with the International Contemporary Ensemble. Recently appointed as the Music Director and Conductor of the Hunter Symphony, Fulmer will lead the orchestra in his first season in four concerts featuring the works of Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Mendelssohn, Stravinsky, Wagner, Debussy, Schubert, and Fauré. He made his debut appearance in 2014 on the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Green Umbrella series at Walt Disney Concert Hall. During the summer seasons, Fulmer has led concerts at the Chamber Music Northwest Festival, and Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival.

Fulmer was recently the recipient of both the Charles Ives Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Carlos Surinach Commissioning Award from BMI. He is the first American recipient of the Grand Prize of the International Edvard Grieg Competition for Composers. He has also received the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award, the BMI Composer Award, the Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a special citation from the Minister of Education of Brazil, the Hannah Komanoff Scholarship in Composition from The Juilliard School, and the highly coveted George Whitefield Chadwick Gold Medal from the New England Conservatory. Fulmer appears regularly and records often with the premiere new music ensembles in New York, including the International Contemporary Ensemble, Talea Ensemble, Argento New Music Project, Speculum Musicae, the Group for Contemporary Music, and the New York New Music Ensemble. His work has been recorded by the Ensemble Intercontemporain. He has appeared recently on the Great Performers Series at Lincoln Center, The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and Live from Lincoln Center broadcasts. He graduated from The Juilliard School.
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Suzanne Farrin’s Dolce la morte sets poems by Michelangelo inspired by his relationship with Tommaso de’ Cavalieri dealing with the joy and complexity of desire and spiritual fulfillment. They are really intense poems and Farrin has scored them for counter tenor and seven piece chamber ensemble. The music is complex and intriguing. The vocal line consists mainly of long, high legato lines that play around with pitch in a variety of ways. The instrumental accompaniment is often also quite high and somewhat drone like with percussive insertions and places where the strings sound uncannily like another voice. It’s haunting and quite disturbing and definitely the sort of music one doesn’t fully “get” on first hearing but which makes one want to come back to it.

The performances, by Eric Jurenas and members of the International Contemporary Ensemble conducted by David Fulmer are extremely skilled and well captured on disk. The recordings were made at Oktaven Audio in Mount Vernon, New York in February 2018 and are crystal clear. The booklet accompanying the CD is a work of art in itself featuring striking images by Doug Fitch, as well, of course as texts and translations.

This release on the Tundra label distributed by New Focus Recordings is well worth a listen.

-John Gilks, 5.6.19, operaramblings

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