Songs from the Garden
- Format: CD
Comments by Maria Lagios Gardens and songs, formal or frivolous, public or private, have delighted people for centuries. Both offer refuge, consolation, peace and joy. Rabindranath Tagore (l861-l941) wrote 'the first flower that blossomed on earth was an invitation to the unborn song.' From exotic orchids to common dandelions, from lowly violets and daisies to the garden's crowning glory, the rose, the bouquet evokes intoxicating textures, colors, and perfumes. Our search for garden songs now exceeds two hundred related to flowers. We visit twelve countries. Our choices include fragrant jasmine, lilacs, lilies of the valley, lonely saffron, happy poppies, clinging ivy, cherry blossoms, ancient anemone, dahlias, zinnias, buttercups, marigolds, primroses, cannas, iris, daffodils, tulips, goldenrod, cyclamen and, of course, the favorites, red roses and water lilies. The vital link is love-a passion for nature, amorous tributes masked in the garden, sensuous eroticism permeating the hothouses of the Mediterranean and Latin America, and finally good humor. Gardens and songs express the various moods of the admirer-a place to exchange light banter, a place to laugh, and a hidden corner to weep. Flowers speak to us in all languages expressing love, joy, sadness and honor. Appearing at major passages-marriage, death, holidays, ceremonial functions, their beauty and scent permeate life, art, and music. Blossoms have inspired poets from Shakespeare to e.e.cummings. Fauré's Le Parfum impérissable matches the intensity in the penetrating datura portraits of Georgia O'Keefe. Nakada's Sakura Yokocho brings aural realization to Japanese silk screens and Debussy's Fleurs des Blés allows us to listen to Monet's haystacks and poppy fields. Celia Thaxter wrote, 'ever since I could remember anything, flowers have been like dear friends to me, comforters, powers to uplift and to cheer.' So it is with song. Through the ages man attaches himself to a melody for comfort, inspiration and joy. I have always loved flowers and I have always loved singing. I thank my dear friend and colleague Dalton Baldwin for bringing them together so personally for me in this musical tribute. Comments by Dalton Baldwin The enchantment of flowers has always been an integral part of my life since early childhood. Daily contact with their life-enhancing beauty is as essential to me as light itself. My first piano teacher maintained a lovely 'all seasons' garden-after lessons I was rewarded with a glass of freshly pressed carrot juice, a handful of roasted sunflower seeds and a tour of the gardens. Each week brought forth new and delightful discoveries-in March, the snowdrops, scilla, crocus-the graceful branches of andromeda-then April, the wooded area suddenly came to life with clusters of daffodil, mertensia, the delicate hepatica, lily of the valley and those rare treasures, pink and yellow lady-slippers. By May, the garden was fully awakened-the flowering shrubs and fruit trees-the lilac, pink and white dogwood, azalea, rhododendron, tulips, forget-me-not, coral bells-gradually giving way to the roses, clematis, iris, peonies, the vivid annuals of mid-summer, and finally the dahlias, astor and mums of early autumn. A mysterious symbiosis took place-the flowers somehow enchanted the beauty of music-while music in return enhanced the beauty of flowers. As I toured around the world there were new varieties to behold-the sweetly scented frangipani, jasmine, datura, the hibiscus and exotic orchids. I started collecting flower songs from the countries I visited and eventually the idea for this recording evolved. In Maria Lagios I found the perfect partner. We are both avid gardeners, tending to our flowers with the same energy, enthusiasm (at times stubborness!) and loving care that the preparation and performance of music require. Maria paints the texts with a vocal palette of vivid colors, subtle phrasing and poetic imagination. During the past few years we have been exchanging flower songs along with plant cuttings, bulbs and seeds! We have performed several programs for garden clubs, and finally reached the recording studio. The atmosphere during the sessions was one of joyful exuberance-a release of pent-up energy and enthusiasm. Here then is our recording bouquet, a garden tour in ten languages. We hope that it will bring pleasure to those who share the love of flowers. MARIA LAGIOS is recognized for her outstanding art song interpretations and her long standing affiliations with the Chicago Opera Theater. Her reputation as a concert artist spans a wide range of repertoire from Baroque to American pops. She has appeared with major orchestras in the United States and Europe and has received acclaim for her innovative recitals in Japan, France, Switzerland and the USA. Performances on Chicago WFMT live broadcasts, PBS television, the Dame Myra Hess Concert Series, and in the commercial recording studio, have established her career as an active and versatile artist. The art song recital has long been her favorite venue and she continues to develop innovative programming formats with collaborators Dalton Baldwin, Martin Katz, and David Schrader. Her recording of 'Songs of Les Six' with Elizabeth Buccheri and her 'Songs from the Garden' concert reflect her interest and expertise in the esoteric as well as the standard art song repertoire. She has sung in ten languages and delights in exploring the songs of many cultures. She has been a pivotal performer of contemporary art song and an advocate for new music. Her work as a master teacher in the private studio and in public classes has taken her around the world. She maintains a private studio in addition to her position as associate professor at Roosevelt University where she organized the biannual International Song Festival. She is featured on the compact disc 'Romance of Spain' produced by Cadenza Classics with pianist Jamie Shaak and guitarist Paul Henry. DALTON BALDWIN is renowned for his concerts and recordings with many of today's foremost singers including Elly Ameling, Jessye Norman, Frederica von Stade, William Parker, José van Dam, Theresa Berganza and Arleen Auger. His longstanding partnership with baritone Gerard Souzay has taken him on tours throughout the musical world, and together they have made over fifty recordings, many of which have received international awards. Mr. Baldwin has recorded the complete songs of Fauré, Debussy, Ravel, Roussel, and Poulenc for EMI. Mr. Baldwin is on the faculty at the Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ, where he has also served for many years as artistic director for their Art Song Festivals. He is in constant demand for master classes in the United States, Europe and Asia. Mr. Baldwin was born in Summit, New Jersey, and studied at the Juilliard School of Music and the Oberlin Conservatory. He continued his studies in Europe with Nadia Boulanger and Madeleine Lipatti. He received an honorary doctorate of music from Oberlin College and was awarded the Chevalier de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French government. He was the permanent pianist of Gérard Souzay for over three decades, during which time they toured extensively on five continents and made numerous prizewinning recordings. Several of these have recently been re-released on compact disc to critical acclaim. The New York Times review of April 1995 cited their partnership as 'a musical marriage made in heaven.' He considers the term 'accompaniment' misleading. His partnership with singers is, in his opinion, a subtle and fascinating art form which strives for a perfect synthesis of music, poetry and the artists personalities.