Pam and I met for our first rehearsal of the Faure’ songs yesterday. The success of our first rehearsal confirmed for me what a great collaboration this will be! She and I each had formed similar interpretations of the works while studying them independently. We have made a plan for later this month to work on some Barber songs as well since I believe that despite the contrast between English and French, the harmonic languages speak to each other.
Dima and I began rehearsals before the new year and ended given a wonderful preview of one of the works to my students at the Franklin School for the Performing Arts. The process of researching works inspired by poetry for this season has to lead me to discover some fascinating literature! Debussy’s Epigraphes Antiques, a four-hand piece Dima and I will perform in December, was inspired by poetry attributed to the first female poet, Sappho of Lesbos (630-570 b.c.e). Most of Sappho’s poetry is now lost, and what remains has survived only in fragmentary form, except for one complete poem: the “Ode to Aphrodite.” Three epigrams attributed to Sappho exist, but these are actually Hellenistic imitations of Sappho’s style. Nonetheless, the work inspired me to dig deeper into the poetry of Sappho. I purchased a book “Searching for Sappho: The Lost Songs and World of the First Woman Poet” by author and Harvard graduate Philip Freeman, which includes the complete known works of Sappho (some are still being discovered), along with the historical context of life in Ancient Greece. I found this read truly intriguing; it left me desiring to explore the broader Mediterranean during ancient times. I am now reading “The Ancient Mediterranean” by classical scholar Michael Grant, which looks at the influences and cultures of the entire region, including Egypt, Israel, Crete, Carthage, Ionia, and the Eastern colonies. Syria, and the Etruscans, as well as the Greek and Roman states. The most incredible take away is how arbitrary the cultural boundaries are between these nations (more accurately, states) during this time period. It leads one to question how cultural boundaries became so rigid and absolute over time.