To Whom I Said Farewell

for Mezzo-soprano and Chamber Orchestra

Steven Stucky

Text: A.R. Ammons
Publisher: Merion Music, Inc.
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

A.R. Ammons, my late colleague and friend at Cornell University, was born in Whiteville, North Carolina. Winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Bollingen Prize, a MacArthur ?genius? award, and countless other honors, he received his second National Book Award in 1993 for the book-length poem "Garbage". When he won the National Book Critics Circle Award for 1981 for "Lake Country Effect", the citation described Archie Ammons as standing ?in the tradition of Wordsworth, Emerson, and Whitman,? creating poetry ?remarkable for its radiant density of argument and feeling.?

In 1991, the Koussevitzky Music Foundation commissioned me to write a new chamber work for the Society for New Music. With Sanford Sylvan?s beautiful interpretations of music by John Adams and John Harbison ringing in my ear, I decided to satisfy the commission with a song cycle for baritone. It was only after I had read through hundreds of poems by other American poets without finding what I wanted that I realized that Ammons was, in fact, my favorite poet, and I returned with pleasure to his work as the basis of "Four Poems of A.R. Ammons", completed in November 1992 and first performed in Syracuse on 28 March 1993. (Later I returned to Ammons once more, using his ?Delaware Water Gap? in one movement of my orchestral song cycle "American Muse" in 1999.)

Like the original version, this new version with chamber orchestra was inspired by another favorite singer, mezzo-soprano Janice Felty. Whereas the original scoring for baritone with a sextet of mostly low-lying, ?romantic? instruments (especially horn and low strings) gave the 1992 work a distinctly dark tone, the higher tessitura and generally brighter orchestration of the mezzo version from 2003 suggest a somewhat different, perhaps more optimistic reading of these wonderful poems ? an interesting confirmation of the fact Ammons?s work is both rich enough and sturdy enough to sustain any number of interpretations. Even so, there is plenty of the dark, romantic tone left in the present version of the last movement, with its prominent lines for cor anglais, bass clarinet, and horn.

A.R. Ammons died on 25 February 2001. This new version of my Ammons cycle, now dedicated to his memory, was first performed on 8 March 2004 by Janice Felty and the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

Available on Rental

Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by the Koussevitzky Foundation for the Society for New Music.
Composition Date 1992, rev. 2003
Duration 00:16:00
Orchestration Solo Mezzo-sop.; 1(dbl. Picc.) 1(E.H.) 1(E-Fl.Cl., B.CL.) 1(dbl.Cbsn.) - 1 1(dbl.Picc.Tpt.) 1 1 0; 2Perc. Hp. Str.(
Premiere First performance on 8 March 2004 by Janice Felty and the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.


I. Consignee
II. Mansion
III. Songlet
IV. Some Months Ago