Sarah Moulton Faux, soprano; Ted Taylor, piano
with Heather Johnson, Laura Krumm, mezzo-sopranos; Nicholas Tamagna,
countertenorGrowing up in the South in the first half of the 20th century, Lola Williams (1913–2013) exhibited great musical talent at a time when women rarely were encouraged to compose, and those who did struggled to hear their works performed publicly. Williams was a serious Shakespearean scholar as well as music educator, but it was not until her retirement that she was able to fully dedicate herself to writing and composition. She quietly created a large body of art songs, mostly inspired by Shakespearean texts, for female voices—solos, duets, and trios—which she seldom shared outside of private clubs. In their melding of vernacular musical forms with classical techniques, her lyrical and tonally lush compositions are reminiscent of the music of Frederick Delius and Gustav Mahler.
The immense work of Williams’s later years languished, untouched, in boxes in her son Derek Williams’s basement until he contacted Sarah Moulton Faux, an acclaimed soprano and former student, who instantly recognized its value. Faux and her long-time collaborator Ted Taylor labored over handwritten drafts, puzzling out the most complete versions, and analyzing the composer’s intent. The resulting program demonstrates Williams’s felicitous pairing of text and music, matching Shakespeare’s inimitable wit and profound verse to painterly/illustrative melodies that are fortunately preserved.
This world-premiere recording features texts from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Love’s Labor’s Lost, The Tempest, Twelfth Night, and Hamlet, as well as Sonnet 116. A rarity is a setting of Shakespeare’s only surviving allegorical poem, The Phoenix and the Turtle.
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