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Ian Venables

Publisher: Novello & Co

At Midnight Op 28/2 (1997)
Text Writer
Edna St Vincent Millay
Novello & Co Ltd
Solo Voices and 1-6 players
Year Composed
4 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
High voice
Alternate Orchestration
Baritone; Piano

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Programme Note
Ian Venables At Midnight Op 28/2 (1997)
Two Songs Op 28

i. Flying Crooked
ii. At Midnight

The two songs opus 28 are examples of Ian Venables' ultra-refined sensibility, contrasting the harmonic subtleties and ambiguities of his setting of Robert Graves' poem 'Flying Crooked' with the dream-like atmosphere of one of Edna St.Vincent Millay's many sonnets.

The American poet Edna St. Vincent Millay won the Pultizer Prize in 1923 for her third volume of poety, 'The Harp-Weaver and Other Poems'. This collection exhibits her mature style, and shows a mastery of her use of traditional verse form; in particular the sonnet.

Although her untitled poem from this volume, given the title 'At Midnight' by the composer, is an early work, it is a poignant description of one woman's reminiscences on past loves. Its timeless, dream-like quality is created by an insistent rocking figure and a rich and sensuous harmonic language which heighten Millay's emotionally charged writing. 'At Midnight' was written in America after Venables was given the poem by Joanne Azarnoff at the end of a concert of his music in San Francisco.

  • Soloist(s)
    Nathan Vale (tenor), Paul Plummer (piano)
    SOMM Recordings:
  • Soloist(s)
    Andrew Kennedy, tenor; Richard Hosford, clarinet; Iain Burnside, piano
[Venables’] approachable harmonic language suited the acceptance of loos inherent in Dowson’s famous lines “they are not long, the days of wine and roses”, and the painful longing of Edna St Vincent Millay’s At Midnight. Against these serious piece the lightness and wit of Robert Graves’ Flying Crooked (with a wonderful roulade on the word ‘aerobatic’!) showed Venables’ versatility.
John Gough, Birmingham Post,02/10/2007
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