Garden Songs

four songs for baritone and piano

--- Martin Bussey

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four songs for baritone and piano

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Composer Martin Bussey
Year of Composition 2005
Duration 13'30"
ISMN 9790570683215

Student Difficulty int-adv
Categories (all composers) ,
Catalogue ID ce-mb2gs1


1. The Garden (setting of Andrew Marvell)

2. Planting Flowers on the Eastern Embankment (Po Chu-i 819 (tr. A.Waley))

3. Planting Trees (setting of John Evelyn)

4. Mr Hancock’s Letter (Thomas Hancock, 1737)

This short cycle, from which individual songs may be chosen to be performed alone without any detriment to their sense, reflects different aspects of the overall theme of gardens. The cycle has proved highly effective in graduate and post-graduate recitals because of its contrasts and approachable though by no means simplistic style, and, as many singers have testified, its idiomatic writing for the baritone voice.

The Garden explores the tranquillity and solace of a garden in a lilting,, calm musical idiom, largely tonal and rhythmically regular.

Planting Flowers exploits a minimalist approach to the piano accompaniment, suggesting distant bells to capture the atmosphere of a warm evening in a Chinese garden. The Governor-General reflects ruefully that the people do not care for flowers as he does, but nonetheless raises his glass of wine to nature in melodic phrases moulded to capture the rhythmic outline of the ancient poem.

The initial simplicity of Planting Trees belies its emotional intensity. John Evelyn describes how Ulysses, returning home from the wars, appears unrecognised to his father, who is planting trees. When challenged as to why he plants trees he will never see fully grown the old man affirms that he plants them in anticipation of the time when his son will return. The music builds gradually to this powerful statement with harmonic intensity and a strong melody over regular minim chords.

Mr Hancock’s Letter has gained a life of its own as a humorous account of the gardening trials of an eighteenth-century American, Mr Hancock, writing to his supplier, none of whose seeds or bulbs come up. His growing exasperation is characterised in ostinato figures in the piano as the voice delivers the letter in emotionally charged phrases. Calling for both humour and power the song makes an ideal recital finisher.

A recording of this work is available via Resonus Classics.