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Stuart MacRae

Publisher: Novello & Co

Poems for Angus (2008)
Commissioned by Karina McIntosh in memory of her husband, Angus McIntosh
Text Writer
Norman MacCaig
Novello & Co Ltd
Solo Voice(s) and up to 6 players
Year Composed
21 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
mezzo soprano

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Programme Note
Stuart MacRae Poems for Angus (2008)
Norman MacCaig’s short collection “Poems for Angus” constitutes a kind of diary of loss and recovery: the loss of a loved one – indeed a fulcrum – and the emotional states that follow it; the recovery of the self as a newly separate entity, of memories both good and ill, and ultimately of a sense of perspective on life and death. Throughout, the idea prevails that the departed live on in the form of memories and the impressions they created in the lives of others.

I have selected poems from the collection with the aim of including a variety of its moods and perspectives. Some of the settings are quite simple and seek only to amplify or resonate the power of the text; others, such as “Praise of a Man” and “Highland Funeral” aim to illustrate the situations and character which I imagine behind the text. Not all the poems are set in full, and several have a substantial instrumental postscript after the voice has stopped; perhaps impressions of the “lost manuscript” referred to in the poem “Defeat”.

Poems for Angus is dedicated to Karina McIntosh, who commissioned the piece in memory of her husband Angus.

© Stuart MacRae 2010

Score sample

  • 18 OCT 2010
    Poems for Angus World Premiere
    Crush Room, Royal Opera House, London (1pm)
    Susan Bickley, mezzo-soprano; Sergey Levitin, violin; Melissa Ball, violin; Konstantin Boyarsky, viola; Chris Vanderspar, cello; Tony Hougham, double bass; Min-Jung Kym, piano

Poems for Angus draws on poems by Norman MacCaig as the basis for a song-cycle which is rich in images of death and transience, as well as a tenuous yet tangible sense of renewal. The emphasis being on 'the basis for', as these six poems are never set literally: instead, the textual fragments are embedded in a musical context whose expressive intensity varies according to the nature of the verse, and with often-lengthy instrumental postludes to ensure continuity and cohesion over the sequence as a whole. A process that reaches its apogee with the final setting, in which the poem 'Highland Funeral' is absent; perhaps to be read as the ensemble gradually falls silent and the musicians leave the platform, leaving only detached chords from the piano to resonate into silence. Full review
Richard Whitehouse, The Classical Source,21/10/2010
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