Composers who wrote/write their own texts

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IcedNote
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Composers who wrote/write their own texts

Post by IcedNote » Wed Sep 23, 2009 2:38 pm

Everyone knows about composers setting poems to music and all of that...and I'm sure you all can list hundreds of examples of this.

However, let's talk about the composers who write their own texts. I don't mean those like JS Bach who just cut and pasted a whole bunch of religious passages together. I'm talking about the ones that wrote poems and whatnot and produced some great music to go along with it.

So...any favorites? Any composers who were particularly successful in both the words and the music?

Let's try not to turn this into a discussion of Wagner if at all possible. :mrgreen:

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absinthe
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Re: Composers who wrote/write their own texts

Post by absinthe » Wed Sep 23, 2009 3:01 pm

If I'm not mistaken, Messiaen wrote the poems set by himself in that beautiful work Harawi.

I love that poetry.

lmpower
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Re: Composers who wrote/write their own texts

Post by lmpower » Wed Sep 23, 2009 3:34 pm

Beside Wagner the name of Arrigo Boito comes immediately to mind. He was one of the very few with the talent to write professional quality lyrics and music for an opera. Mefistofele is a worthwhile example of this.

jbuck919
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Re: Composers who wrote/write their own texts

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Sep 23, 2009 5:46 pm

IcedNote wrote: I don't mean those like JS Bach who just cut and pasted a whole bunch of religious passages together. I'm talking about the ones that wrote poems and whatnot and produced some great music to go along with it.
A very slight correction: Bach did not "cut and paste" from "religious passages." The portions of his cantata and passion texts that were not chorales or scripture were actual intact librettos provided to him by (dreadful) Leipzig poets. So you're right about them being lousy poetry, but not quite for the right reason. :)

Just a random thought: Didn't Debussy write his own text for the song "Noel des enfants qui n'ont plus de maison"?

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

DavidRoss
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Re: Composers who wrote/write their own texts

Post by DavidRoss » Wed Sep 23, 2009 5:56 pm

Mahler, of course--though the songs he adapted are generally stronger than the ones whose lyrics he penned himself, methinks. Much as I may like the Wanderer's Songs, his settings of Wunderhorn texts and Das Lied von der Erde stand at the summit of the genre IMO.
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ravel30
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Re: Composers who wrote/write their own texts

Post by ravel30 » Wed Sep 23, 2009 6:50 pm

The swedish composer Wilhelm Peterson-Berger wrote several songs based on his poems as well as writting the text of most of his operas.

Peterson-Berger is probably my favorite no so well-known composer. I so wish that I could share my love for his work with the whole world and perchaps convince a few people here to give him a try. Unfortunately, I tried it once before here and I failed miserably :( . One day, I will try again.

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Re: Composers who wrote/write their own texts

Post by MaestroDJS » Wed Sep 23, 2009 8:12 pm

Robert Schumann wrote the libretto of his opera Genoveva in collaboration with German poet Robert Reinick. Richard Wagner encountered Schumann in Dresden in 1845.
In [i]My Life[/i], Richard Wagner wrote:The fact that he was too conservative to benefit by my views was soon shown, more especially in his conception of the poem of Genoveva. It was clear that my example had only made a very transient impression on him, only just enough, in fact, to make him think it advisable to write the text of an opera himself. He afterwards invited me to hear him read his libretto, which was a combination of the styles of Hebbel and Tieck. When, however, out of a genuine desire for the success of his work, about which I had serious misgivings, I called his attention to some grave defects in it, and suggested the necessary alterations, I realised how matters stood with this extraordinary person: he simply wanted me to be swayed by himself, but deeply resented any interference with the product of his own ideals, so that thenceforward I let matters alone.
On 20 January 1856, Richard Wagner visited Hector Berlioz in Paris.
In [i]My Life[/i], Richard Wagner wrote:I now looked up my friend Berlioz, whose acquaintance I had recently renewed in London, and on the whole I found him kindly disposed. I informed him that I had only just come to Paris on a short pleasure trip. He was at that time busy composing a grand opera, The Trojans. In order to get an impression of the work, I was particularly anxious to hear the libretto Berlioz had written himself, and he spent an evening reading it out to me. I was disappointed in it, not only as far as it was concerned, but also by his singularly dry and theatrical delivery. I fancied that in the latter I could see the character of the music to which he had set his words, and I sank into utter despair about it, as I could see that he regarded this as his masterpiece, and was looking forward to its production as the great object of his life.
Ruggero Leoncavallo wrote most of his own libretti, and he also contributed to the libretto for Manon Lescaut by Giacomo Puccini. Pagliacci is Leoncavallo's only opera in the repertoire, and he claimed that the plot in his libretto was based on a criminal investigation led by his father, who was a judge.

(Contrary to rumors, the English translation of "Ridi, Pagliaccio" is NOT "No more Rice Krispies, we're all out of Rice Krispies!")
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Ken
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Re: Composers who wrote/write their own texts

Post by Ken » Thu Sep 24, 2009 12:54 am

^ You beat me to it, David! ;)
Du sollst schlechte Compositionen weder spielen, noch, wenn du nicht dazu gezwungen bist, sie anhören.

pizza
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Re: Composers who wrote/write their own texts

Post by pizza » Thu Sep 24, 2009 1:29 am

Ives wrote the texts to about 40 of his songs.

val
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Re: Composers who wrote/write their own texts

Post by val » Thu Sep 24, 2009 4:04 am

Mussorgsky wrote the librettos from Boris Godunov (adapted from Pushkin) and Khovanchina. He did the same regarding the Sorotchinsy Fair (adapted from Gogol).

Tippett also wrote the libretto of King Priam and The Midsummer Marriage (in this last case, I must admit I never understood the plot). I never heard his other operas.

Leonavallo wrote all the librettos of his operas (Pagliaci included). Unlike Tippett, I think he was better doing librettos than music.

THEHORN
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Re: Composers who wrote/write their own texts

Post by THEHORN » Thu Sep 24, 2009 3:53 pm

Menotti wrote the librettos of his operas, and Richard Strauss wrote the one for his autobiographical opera Intermezzo , and if I remember correctly , Pfitzner wrote the libretto for his Palestrina .

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Re: Composers who wrote/write their own texts

Post by MaestroDJS » Thu Sep 24, 2009 7:18 pm

Ferruccio Busoni wrote the German libretti of all his operas. His magnum opus Doktor Faust is based not on Goethe but on 16th-Century German puppet plays. Nancy Chamness (Professor of German, Hope College, Holland, Michigan) published an analysis of the libretto to Doktor Faust in 2001.

Excerpt from the Preface of The Libretto As Literature: Doktor Faust by Ferruccio Busoni, by Nancy O. Chamness
Nancy O. Chamness wrote:The literary development of the opera "Doktor Faust" (1925) by Ferruccio Busoni, including the libretto and other aspects related to interaction of text and music, is a fascinating story. A composer who uses words is creating in a different voice, creating literature yet also aware that these words are written to be sung. The critic who describes and responds to the text can treat it as literature with great reward, yet must keep in mind that a libretto is meant to be part of an opera and therefore it always exists in relation to music. Having heard an opera, it is nearly impossible for the critic to avoid interpreting language through musical sounds. For that reason it can be intriguing to begin research on the libretto before listening to a performance. After analyzing the text and designing an interpretation based on that material, inclusion of the musical element adds another dimension. As the object of a literary analysis, the libretto of "Doktor Faust" proves to be a good drama. Considered anew as part of the opera, it then carries a wealth of semantic and expressive potential that might otherwise have remained hidden.

The written record of an opera consists primarily of notated music and text, as well as stage directions. One of the most powerful effects of combining these two art forms is the ability to express several thoughts or actions simultaneously. Once achieved, the effect transcends the sum of the elements. Music is able to bear meaning, and words express more than they could in isolation. The interdisciplinary study of this complex, composite art form is fraught with paradox, elusive frames of reference, and difficulty in describing operatic effects that are either deliberately confusing or simply defy description in words because of their complete engagement with music. The interdisciplinary critic who undertakes an analysis of a libretto must consider aspects of the opera from several different perspectives: literary, musical and dramatic. Both music and literature can create drama, each in its own way.

The opera carries the subtitle, "Dichtung für Musik," a "poetic work for music," reflecting Busoni's interest in words: he was both composer and librettist for "Doktor Faust". Busoni published the libretto twice before completing the musical score, for reasons that were perhaps less than noble in operatic terms: he predicted that a performance "would demand so much of eyes and ears that no room could be left for the comprehension of the text." Normally such an opera would fail miserably on stage or, if it did succeed, would rely entirely on musical and visual elements. Busoni's prediction was too self-critical: in fact, the words are quite comprehensible in a good production.
David Stybr, Personal Assistant and Der Webmeister to Denise Swanson, New York Times Best-Selling Author
http://www.DeniseSwanson.com
~ Devereaux's Dime Store Mysteries ~ Book 2: Nickeled-and-Dimed to Death, March 2013
~ Scumble River Mysteries ~ Book 15: Murder of the Cat's Meow, October 2012
Penguin ~ Obsidian ~ Signet, New York, New York

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