Vocal pieces 1983

Three Auden Songs

For tenor and piano

Year of composition 1983
Duration 10 minutes

For Peg

I In memoriam L.K.A.(1950–1952) (At peace under this mandarin, sleep)
II Rimbaud (The nights, the railwayarches, the bad sky)
III Lay your sleeping head, my love

World premiere

[Translate to Englisch:] World premiere 15. June 1983

Aldeburgh Festival · Schloßmuseum

Tenor Neil Mackie
Piano Jan Latham-Koenig


The first of the three poems I set to music is the sonnet “Rimbaud” written in a narrative style that portrays the French poet’s character brilliantly and completely by clear trains of thought.
The second poem is a short funeral ode (on the death of Lucina, Auden’s and Kallman’s kitten in Forio d’Ischia) written in an old Icelandic rhyme pattern. Auden once analysed this poem for me, and I could remember this so well that it was easy to set the verse to music while paying particular attention to expressing affinities between the linguistic and musical vocabularies and trying to present them clearly.
The third poem is a love song, one of Auden’s most beautiful and most famous poems. It consists of four verses; whereas its metre remains fixed, its content – as if “intoxicated” with itself – is constantly changing and enriched with new wandering thoughts. I tried to apply the form of the poem, its ideas and images to musical elements.

Hans Werner Henze