For nothing lesse than thee

For nothing lesse than thee


three songs for tenor, B-flat clarinet, and piano (14')

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This is a highly professional composition, imbued with a kind of shadowy elegance that reflected the uncertainty of the poems.
— Greg Stepanich, The Palm Beach ArtsPaper

in three movements

Completed in August, 2003.

Dedicated to Zachary Wilder. World premiere on December 10, 2003 by Zachary Wilder (tenor), Gina Guhl (clarinet), and Kevin Chance (piano).

Text: three poems by John Donne (1572-1631)


For nothing lesse than thee opens with “The Legacie,“ in which Donne looks back at his life from beyond the grave (as his “owne executor and Legacie.”). His cold temperament is set with a bare, open, unmoving musical texture. The music fills out (and moves forward) in the second stanza of the poem when Donne suddenly finds himself in present tense, still very much alive and feeling. Then, in the third stanza, the more reserved musical material returns. Throughout the song, the clarinet and piano stay in separate, unsynchronized orbits until they meet briefly at “and therefore, for our losses sad…”. They then separate once again as the poem comes to a close.

“The Sunne Rising” opens with a clarinet interlude, quickly overpowered by jovial, off-balance music. Interspersed among these outbursts are several small recitative-style sections, in which the singer examines the nature of love and honour. The conflict between the fast and slow sections imitates Donne’s perceived conflict between love and the sun-enforced passage of time (“Love, all alike, no season knows…”).

The last song, “The Dreame,” starts quietly with an evocation of Schumann’s “Im Wunderschönen Monat Mai.” This is intended to evoke a reminiscence of love’s beauty, tinged by an uncertain future. A quicker middle section propels Donne through his exploration of love; the tempo slows when he says, “But rising makes me doubt, that now, / Thou art not thou.” The hint of Schumann then returns, closing the piece on an unresolved minor 9th. for nothing lesse than thee is dedicated to Zachary Wilder.

This digital download includes a full score and a clarinet part.


This recording of the third song, "The Dreame," is from the cycle's world premiere on December 10, 2003 by Zachary Wilder, Gina Guhl, and Kevin Change.