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Veronika Ágnes Fáncsik (b. 1972)

“From hence your memory death cannot take", Three Sonnets by William Shakespeare, for Bass voice, Clarinet solo and Strings, Opus 46

17 minutes

Casting these wonderful texts by William Shakespeare into music was one of the most beautiful tasks of my compositional work to date.  When I read them for the first time many years ago, they immediately made me decide to set them one day, specifically for bass voice and orchestra.  When the time came, I felt an increasing need to express the idea of ​​the implicit, beloved person in the sonnets to whom they are addressed, by an equally important solo instrument as the narrative bass part.  The idea of ​​this counterpart plays a significant role in the basic idea of ​​the poems and without this idea the texts would not be the same.  This idea is the poetic motif of the texts that not only inspires deathwish and love - as the main elements of the poems - but also fuses them into a deep alliance.  It is a person who never articulates real, sounding words in the sonnets, but whose inherent vitality nevertheless as a counterpoint to the narrator seems tangible.  So for me the line-up for the entire composition soon turned out to be two solo parts: a text-conveying vocal part and a “textless” instrumental solo; and it was just as quick and easy to decide to add a pure string orchestra that is organically related to the two solos, but at the same time ensures the individuality of the other two parts through its different sound.

Of course, the orchestra not only has the role of an “accompaniment” for the bass part and the clarinet, but is a very active part of the content with a contributing and determining meaning.  It shapes, unfolds, interprets or anticipates musical thoughts and is essentially involved in the “unveiling” of both poetic and musical ideas.  One of the greatest structural challenges in composing was to bring this comprehensive involvement of the orchestra and the continuity and overall shape of the solos - especially that of the singing voice - into a well-balanced form.

Most composers probably experience a few times in their work that after a while some of their already completed works no longer seem “valid” to them; that as a composer you have the feeling - especially by re-immersing yourself in one of your works in the case of a revision - that you have since gone on a different intellectual and creative path.  And so it was with my Opus 46, which was once already completed and got my blessing a few years ago.  Today I consider it a stroke of luck that the planned premiere in Berlin did not take place at the time, because for the current premiere I revised two of the three compositions in the autumn of last year - and this gave me the opportunity not only to sink into and live through this wonderful poetry again, but at the same time to satisfy my need to enrich an already left creative world with new reflections, worlds of thoughts and worlds of sensations created by the renewed deepening.

—Veronika Ágnes Fáncsik


Sonnet 66
Tired with all these, for restful death I cry:
As, to behold desert a beggar born,
And needy nothing trimmed in jollity,
And purest faith unhappily forsworn,
And gilded honour shamefully misplaced,
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
And right perfection wrongfully disgraced,
And strength by limping sway disablèd
And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly, doctor-like, controlling skill,
And simple truth miscalled simplicity,
And captive good attending captain ill:
     Tired with all these, from these would I be gone,
     Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.


Sonnet 90
Then hate me when thou wilt, if ever, now,
Now while the world is bent my deeds to cross,
Join with the spite of fortune, make me bow,
And do not drop in for an after-loss:
Ah do not, when my heart hath scaped this sorrow,
Come in the rearward of a conquered woe;
Give not a windy night a rainy morrow,
To linger out a purposed overthrow.
If thou wilt leave me, do not leave me last,
When other petty griefs have done their spite,
But in the onset come; so shall I taste
At first the very worst of fortune’s might;
     And other strains of woe, which now seem woe,
     Compared with loss of thee, will not seem so.


Sonnet 81
Or I shall live your epitaph to make,
Or you survive when I in earth am rotten,
From hence your memory death cannot take,
Although in me each part will be forgotten.
Your name from hence immortal life shall have,
Though I, once gone, to all the world must die:
The earth can yield me but a common grave
When you entombed in men’s eyes shall lie.
Your monument shall be my gentle verse,
Which eyes not yet created shall o’er-read;
And tongues to be, your being shall rehearse
When all the breathers of this world are dead;
   You still shall live - such virtue hath my pen -
   Where breath most breathes, even in the mouths of men.

—William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Notes by Ken Meltzer © 2020