Poem in October (1970)
For tenor and chamber ensemble; text by Dylan Thomas x

see also: version for chamber orchestra and A Dylan Thomas Trilogy

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Commissioned by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center

First performed October 15, 1970, by Leo Goeke, tenor, with members of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Alice Tully Hall, New York, NY.

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Scored for tenor and chamber ensemble: flute, oboe, clarinet, harpsichord, and string quartet

Duration 17 minutes

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Recordings
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Robert White, tenor; Thomas Nyfenger, flute, Humbert Lucarelli, oboe, Joseph Rabbai, clarinet, and the American String Quartet, with Maurice Peress conducting from the harpsichord RCA (BMG) 60395-2-RG (1990)

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Program note

What appeals to me most about Dylan Thomas’s poetry is the sound of his words. Phrases from Poem in October like “a springful of larks in a rolling cloud” and “the blue altered sky streamed again a wonder of summer” are in themselves musical. Then there is Thormas’s incredibly rich and concentrated imagery. Within a single sentence he will have three or four images in addition to the main one, so that a composer has a tremendous amount of material to work with.

Further, I love the cadential irregularity in the Thomas poems I have set, for it allowed me to write rhythmically irregular music without violating the pulse of the words. And I admire Thomas’s organization. For instance, near the end ofa poem he tends to recapituale not only words but earlier moments, so that building a musical structure on his texts seem an extremely natural undertaking.

Poem in October is cast as a rondo, where interludes for various combinations of the solo instruments separate the seven verses. The music itself is unabashedly lyrical. I sought to convey a pastoral feeling that would match the directness and simplicity of the text, to deal in understatement and succinctness rather than in complexity and theatrical effect.

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— John Corigliano

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