Present and Future
Present and Future
a song cycle for soprano or mezzo-soprano and piano
in six movements
Completed in March, 2015.
Commissioned by the Staunton Music Festival.
Text: by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)
Published: E. C. Schirmer Music Company #8313. Also included in "Collected Songs for Soprano and Piano," E. C. Schirmer #8270.
Present and Future is the story of a marriage. Using poetry by Christina Rossetti, it passes from the excitement of a wedding day through the joys of marriage, the spark of intimacy, the sorrows of distance, the grief of separation, and the bravery of deciding to move on alone.
From the opening piano flourish, we are thrust into the thrill of a wedding day with the buoyant and bubbling music of “A Bride Song.” Here, the new bride declares her lasting love as she rushes through the woods toward her fiancé. This visceral excitement melts away into a quieter vision of love and companionship in “Hand in Hand,” which settles contentedly into a quiet C major. But the spark is still there; the third song, “A Smile and a Sigh,” energetically describes the joy of carnal pleasures, contrasting it with a sense of impatience when the lovers are apart.
Distance takes its toll on the relationship, and the fourth song, “Pastime,” describes a vision of restless frustration. After wandering through repetitive music in the piano, the singer finally finds focus in her painful decision: “Better a wrecked life than a life so aimless.” The passionate finality of this choice is followed by a dull ache, painted in the throbbing piano accompaniment of “Grown and Flown.” Here, the singer quietly laments the dissolution of her love, once sweet, now bitter. In the final song, “Present and Future,” the singer ponders her path forward. At first mired in the present “sin and sadness,” she eventually finds hope in the rising of the sun, declaring that she will “bear grief in hope, … knowing that it must give o’er.” Ending with a ringing D-flat major, she ends the cycle on a new and more hopeful path.