Part I (Songs 1-4). Jonathan Lasch, baritone; Stephen Sulich, piano. LIVE recording, 02/06/2016 | Concordia College. World premier performance.
baritone and piano
TextEdgar Allan Poe
Sonnet: To Science
To One in Paradise
The Valley of Unrest
"The Happiest Day, The Happiest Hour"
Completed in 2004, McCullough’s “E.A. Poe Song Cycle” was originally composed for lyric baritone Robin Rice, although the cycle was premiered nearly a decade later by Jonathan Lasch. The final song in the cycle – “The Happiest Day, The Happiest Hour” is published as part of NewMusicShelf’s Baritone Anthology,Vol.1. Totaling eight movements, including seven songs and a piano interlude, the Poe cycle investigates a more “buoyant” side of Poe – or at least a more optimistic view mostly devoid of the macabre.
For the composer, the themes of love and loss – with a much-needed sense of hope in the final analysis (“Happiest Day, Happiest Hour”) were at the fore, as the loss of the composer’s mother (1941-2001) remained a constant on his mind for years following her death; the fourth song of the cycle “To One in Paradise” has been set twice by the composer, as it also appears as a vocal movement in his Symphony No.1 (c.2004; rev.2011, 2017).
As a melodic composer, the vocal writing emphasizes singable lines and convincing voice-leading. The piano part also plays a critical role throughout, often presenting compelling material to complement the voice – it is not merely an accessory; the climax of the piano writing is seen in the penultimate movement, during which a piano interlude weaves together materials from the preceding songs.