Songs of Three Seasons

for soprano voice and viola

Tim Souster

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for soprano voice and viola

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Composer Tim Souster
Year of Composition 1965
Duration ca.12'
Categories (all composers) , ,
Catalogue ID ce-ts1sots1


These songs were written while the composer was studying with Richard Rodney Bennett and are dedicated to him. Their composition was prompted by a desire to explore a medium so brilliantly exploited in Bennett’s ‘Tom O’Bedlam’s Song’, the tenor and cello of which are consciously paralleled in the soprano and viola of the ‘Songs for [sic] Three Seasons’.

The style of the songs is unified by the complementary moods of the texts which, despite their disparity of tradition, share a brooding intensity in their observation of the seasons. During the process of setting them, the restrictive two-part instrumental layout led towards the stricter serial organisation of the musical material, though which song of the three is strictly serial and which of the remainder is more or less free in its technique, is immaterial: what matters is whether the music consistently throws light on the texts.

Tim Souster 1966

(Taken from the programme note for the first performance – SPNM concert 3 November 1965)/

First performed by Helen Lawrence (soprano) and Paul Collins (viola) at a concert presented by The Society for the Promotion of New Music in St James’s Square on 3 November 1965.

This piece was numbered Op.1 by Tim, but it was the only piece he ever gave an opus number.

‘First performances are always stimulating, but the works one really looks forward to hearing a second time are few and far between. Into this special category must go Tim Souster’s Songs of Three Seasons for voice and viola, with the opening Love Song and the central Snowdrop particularly imaginative and fastidious in craftsmanship … ‘

Joan Chissell in The Musical Times

‘…more perfectly fashioned were Tim Souster’s Songs of Three Seasons for voice and viola (1965), significantly labelled Op.1 by its 22-year-old English composer. The first two songs (‘Love Song’ and ‘Snowdrop’) were particularly beautiful in musical imagery, with the viola intimately interlaced with the voice.’

– The Times 4 November 1965

The review below is of the score, taken from the journal of the American Music Library Association

Songs of Three Seasons review from ML A Notes vol. 39 no. 2, Dec. 1982

‘Tim Souster’s Songs of Three Seasons for soprano voice and viola, using three widely contrasting texts, one in translation from Neruda, another from Ted Hughes, and the third in translation from the Chinese by Arthur Waley, is a most welcome addition to the rather small literature for voice and viola and would offer excellent relief in an otherwise all piano and voice recital. In spite of its rather free tonality the voice part is quite singable, with a fresh and careful musical declamation. The intervals make lines, and the lines move to important climaxes. The viola part is very well written for the instrument covering all the ranges and is not afraid in the least to ‘imitate’ the sense and meaning of the words. There is a slow-fast-slow form to the work.’