Auden Songs

Length / year

22' - 1973




" remarkable for the delicacy and intimacy of the musical response to the words. A deeply lyrical vein which has been apparent in the composer's writing for some time is usefully mined here with a skilful use of the human voice in songs which are immediately attractive "
Elaine Williams - Western Mail

Performance history

First Performance
Royal Festival Hall, London
27th January 1977
Tay Cheng-Jim - counter-tenor
Graham Johnson - piano

Programme note

My 'Auden Songs' were written in 1974 in response to a Cardiff Festival commission. The process of writing the children's opera 'PTOC' two years before had opened out the possibilities of writing for the voice, and when I came to work on this piece it was with a sense of real enjoyment. The composition proceeded fluently and the resulting songs are now the earliest work of mine that I feel happy with. Although unpublished they have been widely performed by, among others, Eirian James, Alison Truefitt and (in a version for tenor) by Neil Jenkins.

The poems that make up the cycle are as follows :

* ' Warm are the still . . .'

' Sing Ariel . . . '

' Underneath an abject willow . . .'

' Lay your sleeping head . . '

' Driver, drive faster . . . '

* ' Silence invades . . . '

' Now the leaves . . .'

' Make this night loveable . . .'

* ' Restored, returned . . .'

The three stanzas of the poem 'Warm are the still . . .' are used essentially unaccompanied at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of the cycle. (See asterisks.) At the time of composition I was happily unaware of other settings of these words, especially Britten's. The lullaby 'Lay your sleeping head . . .' was composed along with the other songs in 1974 but never performed. I later rediscovered it in an old trunk and felt that my earlier censorship of it had been too harsh. I hope you agree.