Thursday, December 21, 2006

For the singers of songs

Don't miss this story.

The composer stumbled across Neruda's poems in an airport bookstore and found their tender and searching stanzas to be a perfect gift for husband and wife. Sadly, just over a year after the songs' May 2005 premiere -- and less than eight months after this live recording was made -- Hunt Lieberson died at 52.

The set's final song, "My love, if I die and you don’t--," offers a clear-eyed tribute to everlasting love. But it's hard not to be moved listening to Hunt Lieberson's gorgeous, smoky voice, as well as her unsentimental approach to music that already aches with yearning and loss. Neruda's last line -- "But love, this love has not ended: just as it never had a birth, it has no death: it is like a long river, only changing lands, and changing lips" -- perfectly complements the composer's gently rocking rhythm. His descending four-note theme feels like a gentle lullaby, as he slowly rocks his dear wife to sleep.

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