Category Archives: my favorite music








In some British film that I was watching with my wife last night, there was a scene with a young woman playing the piano: Beethoven, Chopin, and another piece.

“I know that piece,” I said to my wife. Then, after a moment or two of concentration, I said, “It’s Schubert. One of his impromptus.”

Here it is. I find Schubert very appropriate for these incredibly sad times.

Also posted above is Liszt’s piano transcription of a song from Schubert’s song cycle Winterreise (Winter’s Journey): namely, “Wasserflut” (“Flood”).



— posted by Roger W. Smith

   March 22, 2020

Beethoven/Goethe, “Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage”








Last night, I heard Beethoven’s short piece Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt (Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage), Op. 112. performed at Carnegie Hall. It is a setting of two poems by Goethe.

The words enchanted me.

Beethoven, as in the Pastorale Symphony — and also in the Choral Fantasy and Ode To Joy — could write outstanding music (as, say, Stravinsky really couldn’t in this respect, despite the supposed primal quality of The Rite of Spring) that captures the elemental human expression of nature and human emotions.

Goethe’s beautiful words follow.







Tiefe Stille herrscht im Wasser,
Ohne Regung ruht das Meer,
Und bekümmert sieht der Schiffer
Glatte Fläche ringsumher.
Keine Luft von keiner Seite!
Todesstille fürchterlich!
In der ungeheuern Weite
Reget keine Welle sich.


Glückliche Fahrt

Die Nebel zerreißen,
Der Himmel ist helle,
Und Äolus löset
Das ängstliche Band.
Es säuseln die Winde,
Es rührt sich der Schiffer.
Geschwinde! Geschwinde!
Es teilt sich die Welle,
Es naht sich die Ferne;
Schon seh ich das Land!



Calm Sea

Deep stillness rules the water
The sea lies motionless,
And sadly, the sailor observes
The smooth surfaces all around.
No air from any side!
Deathly, terrible stillness!
In the immense distances
not a single wave stirs.

Prosperous Voyage

The fog is torn,
The sky is bright,
And Aeolus releases
The fearful bindings.
The winds whisper,
The sailor begins to move.
Quickly, quickly!
The waves part,
The distance approaches;
Already, I see the land!



— posted by Roger W. Smith

   March 6, 2019


Monteverdi, Vespers of 1610
















Venice, by Riccianlo Amadino.











Monteverdi, Vespers – libretto



Posted here is Claudio Monteverdi’s Vespera della Beata Vergine in the version known as the Vespers of 1610. A complete libretto (Word document) is attached above.

I have known and admired the Vespers for a long time, and finally got to hear them performed live, in an outstanding performance by Tenet Vocal Artists, a Renaissance music choral group, at the Church of Saint Jean Baptiste in Manhattan on January 2, 2020.


— posted by Roger W. Smith

    February 2020









the complete work








































Elizabethan music (Campion, Dowland, Morley)





cover - Elizabethan LP







I am posting here the music from an LP that I treasure which I purchased in the Brandeis University bookstore around fifty-years ago.

Exquisite sentiments, beautiful music for voice and lute, clothed in beautiful words.


Side 1 (the first track here) is comprised of nine songs composed by Thomas Campion, who wrote the lyrics (he was a poet and composer), from “Rosseter’s Book Of Ayres.”

Side 2 (the second track) is comprised of two songs by John Dowland (“I Saw My Lady Weep,” “Flow My Tears”) and four songs by Thomas Morley (“It was a lover and his lass,” “Mistress mine, well may you fare!” Can I forget what Reason’s force,” “Fair in a morn”) from the “First Book of Ayres”. The words to “It was a lover and his lass” are from Shakespeare’s As You Like It.


I have modernized spelling in many instances.

A final thought: I heard one of these songs being sung by a soprano on the internet today. Beautiful voice and rendition. But I feel that these songs call for being sung by a male voice (as they almost always are).



— Roger W. Smith

    February 2020







Thomas Campion

nine Songs From “Rosseter’s Book Of Ayres”
“My Sweetest Lesbia”
My sweetest Lesbia, let us live and love,
And though the sager sort our deeds reprove,
Let us not weigh them. Heaven’s great lamps do dive
Into their west, and straight again revive,
But soon as once set is our little light,
Then must we sleep one ever-during night.

If all would lead their lives in love like me,
Then bloody swords and armor should not be;
No drum nor trumpet peaceful sleeps should move,
Unless alarm came from the camp of love.
But fools do live, and waste their little light,
And seek with pain their ever-during night.

When timely death my life and fortune ends,
Let not my hearse be vexed with mourning friends,
But let all lovers, rich in triumph, come

And with sweet pastimes grace my happy tomb;
And Lesbia, close up thou my little light,
And crown with love my ever-during night.
“Though you are young”

Though you are young and I am old
Though your veins hot and my blood cold
Though youth is moist and age is dry
Yet embers live when flames do die

The tender graft is eas’ly broke
But who shall shake the sturdy oak?
You are more fresh and fair than I
Yet stubs do live when flower do die

Thou, that thy youth dost vainly boast
Know, buds are soonest nipped with frost
Think that thy fortune still doth cry:
Thou fool, to-morrow thou must die



“I Care Not for These Ladies”

I care not for these ladies,
That must be wooed and prayed:
Give me kind Amaryllis,
The wanton country maid.
Nature art disdaineth,
Her beauty is her own.
Her when we court and kiss,
She cries, “Forsooth, let go!”
But when we come where comfort is,
She never will say no.

If I love Amaryllis,
She gives me fruit and flowers:
But if we love these ladies,
We must give golden showers.
Give them gold, that sell love,
Give me the nut-brown lass,
Who, when we court and kiss,
She cries, “Forsooth, let go!”
But when we come where comfort is,
She never will say no.

These ladies must have pillows,
And beds by strangers wrought;
Give me a bower of willows,
Of moss and leaves unbought,
And fresh Amaryllis,
With milk and honey fed;
Who, when we court and kiss,
She cries, “Forsooth, let go!”
But when we come where comfort is,
She never will say no.



“Follow Thy Fair Sun”

Follow thy fair sun, unhappy shadow,
Though thou be black as night
And she made all of light,
Yet follow thy fair sun unhappy shadow.

Follow her whose light thy light depriveth,
Though here thou liv’st disgraced,
And she in heaven is placed,
Yet follow her whose light the world reviveth.

Follow those pure beams whose beauty burneth,
That so have scorched thee,
As thou still black must be,
Till Her kind beams thy black to brightness turneth.

Follow her while yet her glory shineth,
There comes a luckless night,
That will dim all her light,
And this the black unhappy shade divineth.

Follow still since so thy fates ordained,
The Sun must have his shade,
Till both at once do fade,
The Sun still proved, the shadow still disdained.

My love hath vowed he will forsake mee,
And I am already sped.
Far other promise he did make me
When he had my maidenhead.
If such danger be in playing,
And sport must to earnest turn,
I will go no more a-maying.

Had I foreseen what is ensued,
And what now with pain I prove,
Unhappy then I had eschewed
This unkind event of love:
Maids foreknow their own undoing,
But fear naught till all is done,
When a man alone is wooing.

Dissembling wretch, to gain thy pleasure,
What didst thou not vow and swear?
So didst thou rob me of the treasure,
Which so long I held so dear,
Now thou prov’st to me a stranger,
Such is the vile guise of men
When a woman is in danger.

That heart is nearest to misfortune
That will trust a fained tongue,
When flattering men our loves importune,
They intend us deepest wrong,
If this shame of loves betraying
But this once I cleanly shun,
I will go no more a-maying.

“When to Her Lute Corinna Sings”

When to her lute Corinna sings,
Her voice revives the leaden strings,
And doth in highest notes appear
As any challenged echo clear;
But when she doth of mourning speak,
Ev’n with her sighs the strings do break.

And as her lute doth live or die,
Let by her passion, so must I:
For when of pleasure she doth sing,
My thoughts enjoy a sudden spring,
But if she doth of sorrow speak,
Ev’n from my heart the strings do break.



“Turn Back, You Wanton Flyer”

Turn back, you wanton flyer,
And answer my desire
With mutual greeting,
Yet bend a little nearer,
True beauty still shines clearer
In closer meeting.
Harts with harts delighted
Should strive to be united,
Either others arms with arms enchaining:
Harts with a thought,
Rosy lips with a kiss still entertaining.
What harvest half so sweet is
As still to reap the kisses
Grown ripe in sowing,
And straight to be receiver
Of that which thou art giver,
Rich in bestowing?
There’s no strict observing
Of times or seasons swerving,
There is ever one fresh spring abiding;
Then what we sow,
With our lips let vs reap, loves gains dividing.



“It fell on a summers day”

It fell on a summers day,
While sweet Bessie sleeping lay
In her bower, on her bed,
Light with curtains shadowed,
Jamy came: she him spies,
Opening half her heavy eyes.

Jamy stole in through the door,
She lay slumbering as before;
Softly to her he drew near,
She heard him, yet would not hear,
Bessie vow’d not to speak,
He resolved that dump to break.

First a soft kiss he doth take,
She lay still, and would not wake;
Then his hands learn’d to woo,
She dream’t not what he would do,
But still slept, while he smiled
To see love by sleep beguiled.

Jamy then began to play,
Bessie as one buried lay,
Gladly still through this sleight
Deceiv’d in her own deceit,
And since this trance begun,
She sleeps ev’rie afternoon.
“Follow Your Saint”

Follow your Saint, follow with accents sweet,
Haste you, sad notes, fall at her flying feet;
There wrapt in cloud of sorrow, pity move,
And tell the ravisher of my soul I perish for her love,
But if she scorns my never-ceasing pain,
Then burst with sighing in her sight, and ne’er return again.
All that I song still to her praise did tend,
Still she was first, still she my songs did end.
Yet she my love and Musicke both doeth fly,
The Musicke that her Echo is, and beauties sympathy;
Then let my Notes pursue her scornful flight:
It shall suffice that they were breath’d and died, for her delight.







John Dowland, songs from the “Second Book of Songs or Ayres”



Dowland, “I saw my Lady weep”

I saw my Lady weep,
And sorrow proud to be advanced so
In those fair eyes, where all perfections keep;
Her face was full of woe,
But such a woe (believe me) as wins more hearts
Than mirth can do, with her enticing parts.

Sorrow was there made fair,
And Passion, wise; Tears, a delightful thing;
Silence, beyond all speech, a wisdom rare;
She made her sighs to sing,
And all things with so sweet a sadness move;
As made my heart both grieve and love.

O Fairer than aught else
The world can shew, leave off, in time, to grieve,
Enough, enough! Your joyful look excels;
Tears kill the heart, believe,
O strive not to be excellent in woe,
Which only breeds your beauty’s overthrow.



Dowland, “Flow, my tears”

Flow, my tears, fall from your springs!
Exiled for ever, let me mourn;
Where night’s black bird her sad infamy sings,
There let me live forlorn.

Down vain lights, shine you no more!
No nights are dark enough for those
That in despair their last fortunes deplore.
Light doth but shame disclose.

Never may my woes be relieved,
Since pity is fled;
And tears and sighs and groans my weary days, my weary days
Of all joys have deprived.

From the highest spire of contentment
My fortune is thrown;
And fear and grief and pain for my deserts, for my deserts
Are my hopes, since hope is gone.

Hark! you shadows that in darkness dwell,
Learn to contemn light
Happy, happy they that in hell
Feel not the world’s despite.




Thomas Morley. songs from the “First Book of Ayres”


Morley, “It was a lover and his lass”

It was a lover and his lass,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
That o’er the green cornfield did pass,
In springtime, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding;
Sweet lovers love the spring.

Between the acres of the rye,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
Those pretty country folks would lie,
In springtime, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding;
Sweet lovers love the spring.

This carol they began that hour,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
How that a life was but a flower
In springtime, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding;
Sweet lovers love the spring.

And therefore take the present time,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
For love is crownèd with the prime
In springtime, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding;
Sweet lovers love the spring.
— from William Shakespeare’s As You Like It



Morley, “Mistress mine, well may you fare”

Mistress mine, well may you fare!
Kind be your thoughts and void of care,
Sweet Saint Venus be your speed
That you may in love proceed.
Coll me and clip and kiss me too,
So so so so so so true love should do.

This fair morning, sunny bright,
That gives life to love’s delight,
Every heart with heat inflames,
And our cold affection blames.
Coll me and clip and kiss me too,
So so so so so so true love should do.

In these woods are none but birds,
They can speak but silent words;
They are pretty harmless things,
They will shade us with their wings.
Coll me and clip and kiss me too,
So so so so so so true love should do.

Never strive nor make no noise,
‘Tis for foolish girls and boys;
Every childish thing can say
‘ Go to, how now, pray away! ‘
Coll me and clip and kiss me too,
So so so so so so true love should do.



Morley, “Can I forget what Reason’s force”

Can I forget what Reason’s force
Imprinted in my heart?
Can I unthink these restless thoughts
When first I felt Love’s dart?
Shall tongue recall what Thoughts and Love
by Reason once did speak?
No, no, all things save death wants force
That faithful band to break.

For now I prove no life to love
Where Fancy breeds Content.
True love’s reward with wise regard
Is never to repent;
It yields delight that feeds the sight
Whilst distance doth them part.
Such food fed me when I did see
In mine another heart.

Another heart I spied, combined
Within my breast so fast,
As to a stranger I seem’d strange,
But Love forced love at last.
Yet was I not as then I seemed,
Bur rathe wish to see
If in so full a harbour Love
Might constant lodged be.

So Cupid plays oft now a days
And makes the fool seem fair;
He dims the sight, breeding delight
Where we seem to despair.
So in our heart he makes them sport
And laughs at them that love.
Who for their pain gets this again
Their love no liking move.



Morley, “Fair in a morn”

Fair in a morn, O fairest morn,
was ever morn so fair?
When as the sun, but not the same
that shineth in the air,
But of the earth, no earthly sun,
and yet no earthly creature,
There shone a face, was never face
that carried such a feature.

And on a hill, O fairest hill;
was never hill so blessed,
there stood a man, was never man
for no man so distressed.
This man had hap, O happy man;
no man so happed as he,
For none had hap to see the hap
that he had happed to see.

As he beheld, this man beheld,
he saw so fair a face,
The which would daunt the fairest here
and stain the bravest grace.
Pity, he cried, and Pity came,
and pitied for his pain,
That dying would not let him die,
but gave him life again.

For joy whereof he made such mirth
that all the world did ring,
And Pan with all his nymphs came forth
to hear the shepherds sing.
But such a song sung never was,
nor ne’er will be again,
Of Phillida the shepherd’s queen,
and Corydon the swain.

Heinrich Schütz, “Weihnachtshistorie” (Christmas Story)





The Christmas Story (Weihnachtshistorie) is a musical setting of the Nativity in German by Heinrich Schütz, probably first performed in 1660 in Dresden. It was published as Historia der Geburt Jesu Christi (History of the birth of Jesus Christ).

The Christmas Story is a Historia, a setting of the Gospel intended to be performed during a service instead of the Gospel reading. The original title read: Historia der freuden und gnadenreichen Geburt Gottes und Marien Sohnes Jesu Christi (History of the joyful and blessed birth of Jesus Christ, son of God and Mary). The music was probably first performed in a Christmas service at the court chapel of Johann Georg II, Elector of Saxony, in Dresden in 1660. Schütz mentions the elector in the long title: “wie dieselbe auf Anordnung Johann Georgs des Anderen vocaliter und instrumentaliter in die Musik versetzet ist durch Heinrich Schütz” (as set to the music for voices and instruments on an order by the other Johann Georg).

The text is almost exclusively taken from the Bible in the translation by Martin Luther, quoting both Luke and Matthew, framed by a choral Introduction and Beschluss (Conclusion). The biblical narration is based on Luke 2:1–21 and Matthew 2:1–23. The text of the conclusion is a translation of the Christmas sequence “Grates nunc omnes” by Johann Spangenberg (1545). The narrator is the Evangelist. Other characters appear in eight sections termed Intermedium (interlude): the angel to the shepherds, the hosts of angels, the shepherds, the wise men, priests and scribes, Herod, an angel to Joseph (twice).


— Wikipedia






I have always loved this magnificent choral work, which induced me to commence a familiarity with and appreciation of the works of Schütz. I love this particular performance, which was on an LP which I obtained in the past.



— Roger W. Smith

   December 23, 2019

Beethoven’s symphonies, transcribed for piano



Have you ever head Franz Liszt’s transcriptions for piano of Beethoven’s symphonies? They are considered (according to a Wikipedia entry) to be “among the most technically demanding piano music ever written.”

Anyway, from the point of view of a listener, I agree fully with what New York Times music critic Anthony Tommasini says (“Beethoven, Now and Forever,” New York Times, March 1, 1996): “… I can’t stop listening to recordings of the Beethoven symphonies as transcribed for piano by Liszt. These are not pianistic stunts but serious, amazingly detailed reconsiderations; and without the orchestrations you hear every detail.”

Here are a couple of samples.
— Roger W. Smith

   October 2019









Philip Glass, String Quartet No. 4 (“Buczak,” last movement)




I purchased a recording of Philip Glass’s quartets by the Kronos Quartet around 25 years ago. Listen to the third and final movement of his fourth quartet — performed on YouTube by the Kronos Quartet — if you feel like it. I find it incredibly stirring. (I can’t avoid hyperbole.) The performance does the work justice.

Glass’s String Quartet No. 4 was commissioned by Geoffrey Hendricks in remembrance of the artist Brian Buczak, who succumbed to AIDS in 1987 at the age of 33. It was premiered at a memorial service on the second anniversary of the artist’s death on July 4, 1989 at the Hauser Gallery in New York City.  (

On a personal note, I remember that terrible time when the AIDS scourge was just that — scary, horrifying — as one could not be unaware in New York City.

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   September 2019