for Mezzo-Soprano, Pianoforte, and Violoncello.

Music by Vern Pat Nelson.

Poems by Ted Hughes, from "Moortown"

The Virgin - The Womb - The Virgin Knight.


This beautiful and mysterious song-cycle has been peformed by perhaps half a dozen sopranos; but the best performance was in 1987 by Wendy Hoffman, whom you will hear on the wave files below:

1. The Virgin. This song is purely in F Minor, or, to be more precise, in the Aeolian mode. The cellist plucks a slow, regular, implacable bass line, the meaning of which becomes clear at the end of the song (which you can't hear here.) Click here to hear the beginning of the song (minus the piano-and-cello introduction:)

"The Virgin was silent
so silent the clock stopped at a sheer brink
so silent the stars pressed in on her eardrums like children's noses at a window..."

2. The Womb. This song is extremely rubato, and composed in the mode of alternating minor thirds and minor seconds--- what Messiaen called one of the "modes of limited tramspositions." Click here to hear the beginning of the song:

"The Womb ponders in its dark tree
like a crucifix still empty
dreaming rituals of moon religions..."

3. The Virgin Knight. The biggest piece of the three, this begins as an aggressive, dissonant polonaise; after a few minutes it mellows down to a dreamlike middle section in which the piano and cello treat the themes from the first two movements fugally; then, just when it gets really mellow, well, THIS is what happens:

"...and as she rode out
the hills quaked
the sea cried in fear
the stars trembled"

To obtain a score of this song cycle,
or to get a cassette of this and other of Vern Nelson's music,
E-mail him here.

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