February 20, 2018

Five Love Songs (1999)

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First Time He Kissed Me 1’56”
The Face Of All The World
Doctor Fell
May’s Love
(Recording: Maria Spacagna, soprano; Henry Mollicone, piano)

For soprano solo with piano accompaniment
Level: medium, 9’44”
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Program Notes:

Love songs are fun to compose­–they are, after all, based upon something which almost everyone has experienced. Five Love Songs was written for my dear longtime friend, operatic Soprano Maria Spacagna. Maria, who has been enjoying a very successful operatic career, requested that I compose something expressly for her. Being familiar with her rich soprano voice since I was very young, I’d been looking forward to finding time to satisfy her request. When the time finally came in 2000, I selected poems dealing with both the pleasurable and the painful experiences of love, experiences that Maria and I have sometimes shared as friends. (A very meaningful moment in my life was accompanying Maria in Schubert’s Ave Maria at my mother’s funeral. Having made music together in my mother’s presence so often in our youth, it was hard for both of us to hold back the tears.) The poets I selected all share a keen ability to express with great beauty the universal aspects of our experiences with love.

—Henry Mollicone


“First Time He Kissed Me…is an impassioned poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning which Mollicone sets with unbridled potency that borders on the operatic. Other songs touch on all kinds of different moods and styles, from the biting, sassy rhythms of Doctor Fell to the beguiling simplicity of Song, featuring a exquisite text by Christina Rossetti that begins “When I am dead, my dearest, Sing no sad songs for me.” Mollicone knows exactly how to bring these words to life… Mollicone’s exquisite setting of Emily Dickinson’s poem There is Another Sky…is nothing less than a masterpiece.”

National Association of Teachers of Singing
(review from Valerie Errante’s recording of American Songs: SONGS OF LOVE AND LONGING)

First Time He Kissed Me

First time he kissed me, he but only kissed The fingers of this hand wherewith I write;
And ever since, it grew more clean and white,
Slow to world greetings,
Quick with its “oh, list”
When the angels speak.
A ring of amethyst
I could not wear here, plainer to my sight,
Than that first kiss.
The second passed in height
The first, and sought the forehead, and half missed,
Half falling on the hair.
O beyond meed!
That was the chrism of love, which love’s own crown,
With sanctifying sweetness did precede.
The third upon my lips was folded down
In perfect purple state; since when, indeed,
I have been proud and said,
“My love, my own.”

–Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The Face of All the World

The face of all the world is changed, I think,
Since first I heard the footsteps of thy soul
Move still, oh still, beside me, as they stole
Betwixt me and the dreadful outer brink
Of obvious death, where I, who thought to sink,
Was caught up into love, and taught the whole
Of life in a new rhythm.
The cup of dole God gave for baptism,
I am fain to drink,
And praise its sweetness,
Sweet, with thee anear.
The names of the country, heaven, are changed away
For where thou art or shalt be, there or here;
And this… this lute and song… loved yesterday,
(The singing angels know) are only dear
Because thy name moves right in what they say.

–Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Doctor Fell

I do not love thee, Doctor Fell,
The reason why I cannot tell,
But this one thing I know full well:
I do not love thee, Doctor Fell.

–Thomas Brown

May’s Love

You love all, you say,
Round, beneath, above me:
Find me then some way
Better than to love me,
Me, too, dearest May!
You love all, you say,
O world-kissing eyes
Which the blue heavens melt to!
I, sad, over-wise,
Loathe the sweet looks dealt to
All things-men and flies.
You love all, you say:
Therefore, Dear, abate me–
Just your love, I pray!
Shut your eyes and hate me
Only me-fair May!

–Elizabeth Barrett Browning


When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.
I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain:
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise or set,
Haply, I may remember,
And haply may forget

­–Christina Rossetti

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