for voice and piano (2000)

6 min.

27 February 2005
Judith Bettina, soprano / James Goldsworthy, piano
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Southampton, PA

Muriel Rukeyser

Tenor (original): D3 – G#4
Soprano: D4 – G#5
Mezzo-soprano: C♭4 (B4) – F5

This piece was made possible by a grant from the Fromm Music Foundation.

Written for Thomas Young in memory of his wife, Marilyn Helinek

Biscardi Music Press No. B48-00-2
Classical Vocal Reprints No. CVR3622: Print / Digital
Theodore Front Musical Literature, Inc.

Recovering was written for my friend, Thomas Young, in memory of his wife, Marilyn Helinek. It is a setting of two poems by Muriel Rukeyser, including two lines from "The Poem as Mask: Orpheus" and the entirety of "Recovering". The second poem is framed by a musical quotation which brings out an inner voice and modifies the opening of J. S. Bach's chorale, Es ist das Heil uns kommen her (Now is to Us Salvation Come).

Jan Heller Levi, in A Remembrance of Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980) published in the Sarah Lawrence College Bulletin May 1980, wrote that "Muriel, like no one else, proved to us that recovery - recovery of what has been lost or what has been denied us - is the true work of poetry and of our lives."
. . . There is no mountain, there is no god, there is memory
of my torn life, myself split open in sleep . . .

Muriel Rukeyser, from The Speed of Darkness (1968) I/Clues:
"The Poem as Mask: Orpheus"
Dream of the world
speaking to me.

The dream of the dead
acted out in me.

The fathers shouting
across their blue gulf.

A storm in each word,
an incomplete universe.

Lightning in brain,
slow-time recovery.

In the light of October
things emerge clear.

The force of looking
returns to my eyes.

Darkness arrives
splitting the mind open.

Something again
is beginning to be born.

A dance is
dancing me.

I wake in the dark.

Muriel Rukeyser, from "Recovering" from The Gates (1976) One
Reprinted by permission of International Creative Management, Inc.
Copyright © 1994 by William L. Rukeyser.

A very different view of wakefulness and sleep confronts the listener in Recovering, built on two poems of Muriel Rukeyser: two lines from "The Poem as Mask: Orpheus" and the entirety of "Recovering." Biscardi here achieves a remarkable poignancy through economical means: the use of repeated tones in the vocal line, supported by masterful changes of harmony, serves to conjure up everything from fitful, uneasy slumber to emotional numbness to gradual emergence from the pain of grieving. An altered quotation of a Bach chorale, "Es ist das Heil uns kommen her" ("Now is to us Salvation Come"), filtered through the scrim of a dreaming state, frames the setting of the second poem. Recovering was composed for another friend of the composer's, the tenor Thomas Young, in memory of Young's wife, Marilyn Helinek.
Hayes Biggs, Songs & Encores (2006)

"Recovering" is a single song that reflects still another aspect of Biscardi's compositional genius. It is a setting of two poems by Muriel Rukeyser, including two lines from "The Poem as Mask: Orpheus" and the entirety of "Recovering." A fascinating art song of considerable substance, it opens with a motto beginning constructed from a motive consisting of a perfect fourth and augmented fifth, a figure that pervades especially the opening section of the piece. Somewhat atypically for Biscardi's usual melodic style, one encounters a great deal of trance-like single pitch repetition in the voice part, an expressive depiction of the "dream of the dead." While this repetition occurs to some extent also in the accompaniment, one finds much melodic and contrapuntal interest in the piano score as well. Interestingly, the second poem is framed by (modified) musical quotations of a chorale tune upon which Bach's cantata BWV 9, "Es ist das Heil uns kommen her," is based.
Richard Dale Sjoerdsma, Journal of Singing (2008)

This combination of two poems by Muriel Rukeyser seems to describe a person recovering from a debilitating illness. At once depressing and hopeful that "Something again is beginning to be born," it evokes powerful feelings. Biscardi's dissonant musical style complements the disjunct elements of the text.
Judith Carman, "New Songs by American Composers: Chester Biscardi," Music Reviews, Journal of Singing, Jacksonville, Florida, September/October 2008, pp. 111-112

"This absorbing and beautifully-sung conspectus of recent American songs, largely composed in the past 20 years, covers a wide range of idioms. . . . The songs of Chester Biscardi and David Rakowski show that lyricism is alive and well in the hands of a younger generation. Five stars."
Calum Macdonald, BBC Music Magazine (2007)

"Although two of Chester Biscardi's contributions were composed for special occasions, they were well worth recording here. Biscardi's fondness for chromaticism is illustrated by the second half of his version of Carl Sandburg's Baby Song of the Four Winds. Dreamy and moving, Recovering discreetly refers to a Bach chorale. The brief soundscape of Guru (inspired by Allen Ginsberg) completes the group."
Peter Palmer, Tempo (2007)

Copyright © 2008–2018 Chester Biscardi. Site design by Dennis Tobenski.