Song Prize final

The 2009 Song Prize finalists

Programme notes for the 2009 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Song Prize final.

View a photo gallery from the Song Prize final.

Eri Nakamura - Japan

Accompanist: David Gowland

Auch kleine Dinge (Italienisches Liederbuch No 1) - Wolf

Even the smallest thing gives us pleasure: a little pearl can delight us above all gems; the little olive is sought after for its perfect flavour; a tiny rosebud is the most beautiful of all flowers. The text comes from a collection of anonymous Italian poetry, translated by Paul Heyse.

Lebe wohl (Mörike-Lieder Book 3 No 36) - Wolf

In 'Farewell', the beloved does not know how much agony is caused by uttering these words. The poet has repeated the words over and over to himself, feeling more and more pain until the heart is broken. The text is by Julia von Bose.

Er ist's (Mörike-Lieder Book 1) - Wolf

Spring has arrived, with all its colours and perfumes wafting through the breeze, filling the earth with ecstasy. The violets are about to flower and music can be heard from afar.

Manjyushage - Kōsaku Yamada

In 'Red spider lily', a lady is crying as she picks the lilies that grow in the graveyard. There are seven of them, red as blood, one for each year of the dead child's life. Although she has picked the flowers, the sun will make more open - however many she picks, more will always grow. The poem is by Hakushū Kitahara.

Allerseelen (Op 10 No 8) - Richard Strauss

In 'All Souls' Day', The late autumn flowers on the table remind the poet of one time in May when he was with his beloved - now dead. He allows himself to think of her on one day each year, All Souls' Day, when flowers are laid on the grave. The poem is by Hermann von Gilm.

Frühlingsfeier (Op 56 No 5) - Richard Strauss

In 'Spring Festival', the poet talks of young girls frantically running around, seeking something. They search the forest at night, hysterically crying and wailing, searching for Adonis. But the beautiful young man lies pale and dead on the grass, his blood turning the flowers red. The poem is by Heine.

Yuriy Mynenko - Ukraine

Accompanist: Tamara Panska

Intorno all'idol mio (Orontea) - Cesti

'All around my love' comes from Cesti's opera Orontea, written around 1650. It is sung by the Queen of Egypt, the title role, about her beloved Alidoro. She asks the gentle breeze to kiss his cheeks and for the spirits of love to reveal her passion in her lover's sweet dreams.

Mio ben ricordati - Glinka

The singer addresses his lover, saying that if he should die, she should always remember how much he loved her. He will still love her from his grave. The poem is by Metastasio, whose librettos were widely set in the 18th century.

Medlitel'no vlekutsja dni moji (Op 51 No 1) - Rimsky-Korsakov

In 'Slowly pass my days', the poet is near the end of his life and the bitterness of unhappy love is growing stronger in his heart. He has only his tears to console him, and he cannot remember life before he was in love. The poem is by Pushkin.

Mow do mnie jezcze - Mieczysław Karłowicz

'Speak to me once more' the singer repeatedly asks. The voice he calls for should flow towards him, the words caressing him. The words flow like a prayer over a coffin, bringing shivers of death to his heart. The poem is by Kazimierz Przerwa-Tetmajer.

Singing heals the aching spirit (Silent Songs) - Silvestrov

In the 1970s, Valentin Silvestrov was unpopular with the Soviet authorities and he chose to keep a low profile. He wrote this cycle of 'Silent Songs', intended to be performed in private. This is the first of a group of five, to a text by Baratynsky. As well as the healing power of singing, he says, harmony can calm confusion and tame rebellious passions. When the singer pours out his heart - and all sorrow is released - the sacred poetry brings purity and peace to those who hear it.

Farewell world, farewell earth (Silent Songs) - Silvestrov

The fifth of this group of five songs from the cycle is set to a text in Ukrainian by Shevchenko. The poet says goodbye to the unfriendly world which has tormented him and made him angry for so long. But when he is in heaven, he will always remember the beloved Ukraine, which he has left behind.

Non ti scordar di me - De Curtis

'Don't forget me' was written for Gigli to sing, in a 1935 film of the same name. The text tells of the swallows leaving the cold land, searching for spring sunshine, for love and building their nests. The singer says that his own little swallow has left him, without a kiss, without saying goodbye. He bids her to never forget him, saying that she will always be in his dreams.

Javier Arrey - Chile

Accompanist: Simon Lepper

Oblak a marákota (Písné Biblické Op 99 No 1) - Dvořák

Dvořák used verses from the Psalms, taken from the Bible of Kralice, as the basis of the Biblical Songs, and the songs often have the feel of church music. The first speaks of darkness and thunderclouds surrounding the Lord. He destroys his enemies with fire and mountains melt before him. He is the Lord God of earth and heaven.

Skyse má a pavéza má (Písné Biblické Op 99 No 2) - Dvořák

The Lord is my shield, my refuge and hope. I trust in Thy word. Lord, give me strength and keep me from evil. I stand in Thy sight in fear and trembling of Thy judgment.

Slýs ó Bóže modlitbu mow (Písné Biblické Op 99 No 3) - Dvořák

Hear my prayer, Lord my God, hide not from my entreaty. My heart is sore, the fear of death lies heavy on me. If I had the wings of a dove, I would fly away to be at rest in the wilderness. I would escape the tempest and the fear of death.

Hospodin jest muj pastyˆr (Písné Biblické Op 99 No 4) - Dvořák

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul, He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil. For Thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.

Bóže! Bóže! píseň novou (Písné Biblické Op 99 No 5) - Dvořák

I will sing Thee songs of gladness and give praises on the psaltery. Let my song find favour in Thine eyes. Every day I will bless Thy name - Thou art all my delight. Men will tell of Thy great mercy, love and wondrous insight and I shall sing of Thy glory and power.

Chanson romanesque (Don Quichotte à Dulcinée No 1) - Ravel

This set of three songs was the last work Ravel completed, in 1933, to texts by Paul Morand. It was originally commissioned for a film, but Ravel took so long to complete the work that Jacques Ibert was asked to take over. In this love song, with its guitar-like accompaniment, Don Quixote serenades Dulcinea.

Erlkönig (Op 1 D328) - Schubert

The 'Erlking' is a malevolent king of the spirits in German folklore. Here, he pursues a child and lures him to his death while his father tries to ride with him to safety. The singer varies his tone to indicate the voices of the child, the father and the supernatural Erlking. The poem is by Goethe.

Jan Martiník - Czech Republic

Accompanist: Alexandr Starý

Sabre en main (Mélodies persanes Op 26 No 4) - Saint-Saëns

This group of Persian songs is set to texts by Armand Renaud. The singer has saddled and bridled his horse, to set off through the desert. He has a cold heart and a steady gaze, always ready to draw his sword. In his white robe and turban, he wants to go to war, destroying villages and making kings fear his presence. He must lead soldiers, with banners, pikes and tambourines, not resting until the whole worthless world is at his feet.

Au cimetière (Mélodies persanes Op 26 No 5) - Saint-Saëns

Two lovers sit on a grave in the cemetery, whispering, imagining that the dead man can hear them. If he was loved by someone, he will think he can smell the perfume of the past he has lost. If he lived without love, he will see that his life was wasted. As night falls, the lovers will draw closer, knowing that one day they will die. The poem is by Armand Renaud.

Dance macabre - Saint-Saëns

Death taps out a rhythm on a tomb at Halloween, playing a jig on his fiddle. As the wind blows, the skeletons get up and do a sinister dance of death. The bones of all kinds of people are dancing, rich and poor, kings and peasants - all are equal in death. The piece is better known in its expanded version for violin and orchestra, but this is Saint-Saëns' original. The text is by Henri Cazalis.

Ein Jüngling liebt ein Mädchen (Dichterliebe Op 48 No 11) - Schumann

These two songs are from the song cycle 'Poet's Love' based on poetry by Heine. A young man loves a maiden, who loves another man. This other man loves another girl, and marries her. Out of spite, the first girl marries the first man that comes along, and the original young man's heart is broken. It's an old story.

Hör' ich das Liedchen klingen (Dichterliebe Op 48 No 10) - Schumann

When the poet hears the song that his lover used to sing, his heart is filled with pain. His unhappiness and longing make him want to flee to the woods and weep.

Der Doppelgänger (Schwanengesang No 13) - Schubert

The poet is outside the house where his beloved used to live long ago. To his horror, he sees a man there, deep in anguish - and the man appears to be himself, in the torment he once felt. If it is not him, it is the 'double' of the title. The poem is by Heine.

Natalya Romaniw - Wales

Accompanist: Simon Lepper

Sweeter than roses (Pausanias) - Purcell

This comes from incidental music written by Purcell for Richard Norton's drama, Pausanias. Pandora is an ambitious woman, and she has an assignation with Argilius, whom she intends to blackmail. While she waits for him, an attendant sings this song of seduction, intended to put Pandora in the mood for love.

Abendregen (Op 70 No 4) - Brahms

The traveller walks gloomily through the rain, as the evening sun shines through. As he feels the raindrops and sees the sun, he realises that there will be a glorious rainbow. Although he cannot see it himself, he knows that it will be seen from afar. The poem is by Gottfried Keller.

Les filles de Cadix - Delibes

Three girls from Cadiz have been to the bullfight and dance a bolero with their castanets. A wealthy man approaches them and offers one of them riches, but they send him on his way. Then they see Diego, who has nothing but his coat and his mandolin. He asks one of them if she would marry a jealous lover but they all send him on his way. The text is by Alfred de Musset.

Uzh ty, niva moja! (Op 4 No 5) - Rakhmaninov

In this song, 'Harvest of Sorrow', the poet reflects that the harvest cannot be cut with one sweep, nor bound into one sheaf. Likewise, thoughts cannot always be shrugged off easily, nor put into words. Like the wind sweeping across the meadow, bending the stalks and scattering seeds, so his thoughts are scattered. Wherever they fall, a bitter weed is sown and grows into sorrow. The poem is by Tolstoy.

Oliver Cromwell - Britten

In this setting of a Suffolk nursery rhyme, Oliver Cromwell lies buried under an apple tree. An old woman comes to pick the apples and Oliver Cromwell gives her a shock - and makes her dance.

Mae hiraeth yn y môr (Caneuon y Tri Aderyn No 3) - Dilys Elwyn-Edwards

The Welsh word 'hiraeth' has a particular meaning of longing for home - a feeling deep in one's soul when one is far away. The poet describes the 'hiraeth' in the sounds and silences of the landscape - the sea, the rivers and the mountains, the wind in the reeds. The sound of the cockerel crowing on a nearby gate awakens an answer from afar, with the sadness of distance in its voice. This is the third of Three Welsh Bird Songs. The words are by R Williams Parry.

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