Leontyne Price Sings Eight Songs By Lee Hoiby

Leontyne Price Sings Eight Songs By Lee Hoiby

Live in Concert from 1965 – 1991
David Garvey, Pianist

This was a day the trees turned silver                                                                                         In the wand of the wind                                                                                                                And wild flowers opened the eyes                                                                                          Even of the blind.                                                                                                                                The meadow grasses polished                                                                                                  The green sickle of wind,                                                                                                           And finches fashioned the sun,                                                                                          Ringing in the mind. This was a day                                                                                              the trees turned silver                                                                                                                        And finches fashioned                                                                                                                      the sun.                                                                                                                                                John Fandel

THE MESSAGE                                                                                                                                Send home my long stray’d eyes to me,                                                                            Which, O! too long have dwelt on thee;                                                                                Yet since there they have learn’d such ill,                                                                        Such forced fashions and false passions,                                                                          That they be made by thee                                                                                                              Fit for no good sight, keep them still.

Send home my harmless heart again,                                                                                Which no unworthy thought could stain ;                                                                        Which if it be taught by thine                                                                                                      To make jestings of protestings,                                                                                            And break both word and oath,                                                                                                Keep it, for then ’tis none of mine.

Yet send me back my heart and eyes,                                                                                    That I may know, and see thy lies,                                                                                          And may laugh and joy, when thou                                                                                          Art in anguish and dost languish                                                                                              For some one that will none,                                                                                                        Or prove as false as thou art now.  John Donne

LADY OF THE HARBOR                                                                                                            “Give me your tired, your poor,                                                                                              Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,                                                              The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,                                                                Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,                                                              I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”                                                                                                                       Emma Lazarus

THE SERPENT                                                                                                                                There was a Serpent who had to sing.                                                                              There was. There was.                                                                                                                   He simply gave up Serpenting.                                                                                      Because. Because.                                                                                                                           He didn’t like his kind of Life;                                                                                                     He couldn’t find a proper Wife;                                                                                                 He was a Serpent with a Soul;                                                                                                     He got no pleasure down his Hole.                                                                                       And so, of course, he had to sing.                                                                                                And sing he did, like anything.                                                                                                      Ah, ah, ah, ah, etc

The Birds, they were, they were,,                                                                                Astounded;                                                                                                                                        And various Measures propounded                                                                                        To stop the Serpent’s Awful Racket:                                                                                    They bought a Drum.                                                                                                                             He wouldn’t Whack it.                                                                                                               They sent – you always send – to Cuba                                                                                  And got a Most Commodious Tuba;                                                                                     They got a Horn, they got a Flute,                                                                                          But Nothing would suit. He said,

“Look, Birds, all this is futile;                                                                                                            I do not like to bang or tootle.”                                                                                                 And then he cut loose with a Horrible Note                                                                   That practically split the Top of his Throat.

“You see,” he said, with a Serpent’s Leer,                                                                              “I’m Serious about my Singing Career!”                                                                                And the Woods resounded with many a Shriek                                                                  As the Birds flew off                                                                                                                            to the End of Next Week.     Theodore Roethke  

AUTUMN                                                                                                                                                 The leaves are falling, falling down                                                                                           As far as though from gardens deep in heaven fading.                                                      They fall with gestures of complete negation.

And in the night the heavy earth is falling                                                                          From all the stars into its loneliness.

And we are falling, even this hand must fall,                                                                          And see, the other, too. All falling, all.

And yet, one holds all falling everywhere                                                                   Endlessly, gently, in his hand’s caress.    Rainer Maria Rilke

Evening , when the measure skips a beat                                                                          And then another, one by one and all                                                                                      To a seething minor swiftly modulate.                                                                                  Bare night is best, bare earth is best, bare, bare,                                                        Except for our own houses, huddled low                                                                  Beneath the arches and their spangled air,                                                                Beneath the rhapsodies of fire and fire,                                                                        Where the voice that is in us makes a true response,                                              Where the voice that is great within us rises up,                                                            And we stand gazing at the rounded moon.                                                                                                                    Wallace Stevens


Wild Nights – Wild Nights!                                                                                                          Were I with thee                                                                                                                              Wild Nights should be                                                                                                                        Our luxury!

Futile the Winds –                                                                                                                             To a Heart in port –                                                                                                                      Done with the Compass –                                                                                                          Done with the Chart!

Rowing in Eden –                                                                                                                                Ah, the Sea!                                                                                                                                        Might I but moor –                                                                                                                        Tonight – In Thee!                   Emily Dickinson


Goodby, goodby world. Goodby, Grover’s Corners . . .                                                       . . . Mama and Papa . . . . Goodby to clocks ticking,                                                          and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee,                                                                    and new-ironed dresses and hot baths,                                                                              and sleeping and waking up.                                                                                                          O, earth, you’re too wonderful                                                                                                        for anyone to realize you.                                                                                                              Do any human beings ever                                                                                                       realize life while they live                                                                                                                  it?  . . . every, every                                                                                                                    minute.                                                                                                                                      Thornton Wilder


 Autograph manuscript of “The Serpent”, Leontyne Price Archive, Juilliard Library NYC

The Serpent by Lee Hoiby - Manuscript

1, 4, 5, 6: Songs for Leontyne  
7: The Shining Place ©Southern Music
2:  Eleven Songs  ©Rock Valley Music
3: Thirteen Songs  ©G. Schirmer
8: © Estate of Thornton Wilder.
1: Leontyne Price Rediscovered   (RCA RedSeal 09026-63908-2)
7: Leontyne Price: Return to Carnegie Hall (RCA Red Seal 09026-68435-2)

Purchase Printed Music by Lee Hoiby – Click Here

Then five new songs (performed from manuscript) by Lee Hoiby opened Miss Price’s treasury of interpretive powers. Colors flowed freely, her intelligence transferred itself into powerful communication and a rare singer of songs was heard.  Hoiby was in the audience to share the warm response to his songs: A River Merchant’s Wife, The Dust of Snow, Summer Song, Winter Song and In the Wand of the Wind. The songs are dramatic ones showing Hoiby to be a first-rate vocal writer. . .  Wonderfully effective, they are a fine addition to the repertoire and to Miss Price’s program.

Charles Crowder, Washington Post, 1967

The concert was flawless, but I appreciated especially the magnetic American songwriter Lee Hoiby, [whose] work is alternately sensitive, humorous, and coloristic. The Serpent – a clever bit of fun, full of laughter and serpentine logic – was clearly the audience’s favorite.

Sacramento Bee, 1981

The three Hoiby songs are each worth hearing again. The Serpent in fact, is a song in a million – legitimately funny, not coy, and at the same time, vocally rewarding. The Message and Autumn both expressive and lyric, exploited the soprano’s range, emphasizing her top and her capacity for line.

Speight Jenkins, New York Post, 1986

The highlights included three alternately richly romantic and humorous songs of Lee Hoiby – outstanding items of the genre.

Bill Zakariasen, New York Daily News, 1986

The second half of the program was particularly pleasurable as her voice warmed and glistened, floating at times with sublime beauty. These moments occurred most often in several numbers by Lee Hoiby.

Charles Passy, Palm Beach Post, 1987

For this listener,  the most successful items were four songs by the American composer Lee Hoiby, which benefited as much from the full-bloomed vitality of Price’s singing as her flair for storytelling: in the amusing ballad The Serpent she reduced her big soprano to a wicked whisper.

John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune,  1987

More at home in English, Price sang four songs by Lee Hoiby: Lady of the Harbor,  Be Not Afeard, from The Tempest, The Serpent and In the Wand of the Wind. She made these attractive poem settings the highlight of the concert. Hoiby shuns prissy note-for-word adaptations; he seems to set verse in one arching impulse.

Allan Ulrich, San Francisco Examiner, 1988

Perhaps the most successful portion of the recital involved four songs by Lee Hoiby. These heartfelt, exquisitely made lyric pieces, their high tessitura beautifully tailored to Price’s voice, amounted to a splendid tribute from one American artist to another.

John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune,  1990

For connoisseurs, perhaps most memorable was the emotional impact in songs by Marx, Strauss and Hoiby, in particular Hoiby’s thrilling Wild Nights, Goodby, Goodby World and There Came a Wind Like a Bugle.

Daniel Cariaga, Los Angeles Times, 1990

Evening, by Lee Hoiby, ended with the prettiest high note Price had sung all afternoon, and Hoiby’s comic charmer, The Serpent, was an unexpected crowd-pleaser.

Adam Z. Horvath, New York Newsday, 1991

The singer’s selections of songs by Lee Hoiby was a highpoint of the evening. His setting of Goodby, Goodby World from Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” is a particularly impressive example of his richly effective neo-romantic style; it was sung with disarming tenderness and time-stopping poignancy. The soprano had a ball with always it’s Spring, Hoiby’s setting of an e. e. cummings poem. The rapturous repetition of “And yet abide the world” at the conclusion of There Came a Wind Like a Bugle made a thrilling impact.

Tim Smith, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 1992

Particularly memorable in the varied program was . . . the soaring height to which she lifted the panoramic ending of Lee Hoiby’s There Came a Wind Like a Bugle.

Nancy Raabe, Milwaukee Sentinel,  1992

When Price was fully warmed up and singing in her element, as in Lee Hoiby’s There Came a Wind Like a Bugle, her pitch was locked in and her vocal colors astonished with their richness. And the power!”

Tom Strini, Milwaukee Sentinel, 1992

The best, however, was a delightfully varied grouping by the American composer Lee Hoiby. . . . Price sang the songs as if they were old friends she were welcoming to a party: no word was wasted, no emotion untouched, particularly in the lushly grand Goodby, Goodby World.

Charles Passy, Palm Beach Post, 1992

It was in the American set – especially the playful leaps and flourishes of Hoiby’s always it’s Spring – that left the most vivid impression of Price’s conviction and still formidable technique.

Lesley Valdes, Philadelphia Enquirer, 1993

The most valuable aspect of this CD, though, is the glimpse it affords of Price the Lieder singer and advocate for American song. Lee Hoiby composed songs specially for her, and it is good to have at least a souvenir of their collaboration in these three beautiful songs. Always it’s spring is a text by e. e. cummings, with a great high-lying climax on the final image of people floating away into the sky, There came a wind like a bugle and Wild nights both set texts by Emily Dickinson and, near the end of the concert, Price is in full cry, words clear, voice poised as of old.


Lee Hoiby totalement inconnu en France, a composé une dizaine d’opéras . . . et de nombreuses mélodies. Nous en découvrons deux, d’une facture on ne peut plus classique, qui témoignent d’une belle inspiration, magnifiée par la voix de l’artiste. On regrette qu’il n’y en ait pas davantage, car il s’agit d’une rareté absolue qui constitue  l’un des atouts majeurs de cet enregistrement.  (tr. one of the main assets of this recording)

Christian Peter,  Forum Opera, 2003