A Picnic Cantata
$9.99 - $14.99

  • A Picnic Cantata
  • A Picnic Cantata

A Picnic Cantata
$9.99 - $14.99

A Picnic Cantata is the result of a one-time collaboration
between a quartet of dazzlingly gifted artists: the piano-duo team of
Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale (partners on- and offstage, and
marquee names in 1953), the composer Paul Bowles (also their
housemate), and the fledgling poet James Schuyler, then years away
from publishing his first book of poetry. When the pianists received a
commission for a new vocal work from the arts patroness Alice Esty,
they tapped Bowles to compose the music and Schuyler to write the
libretto. By that point, Bowles’s career as a composer was being
overshadowed by his growing success as a novelist. Yet his musical
inspiration was still riding high. The result was the enchanting
Picnic Cantata, a unique vocal suite that balances sensuality with
innocence, lightness with hints of foreboding. In this hyper-realistic
world, a picnic basket seems to hold the entire contents of Zabar’s, a
car materializes on cue, and the gathering together of four friends, two
sopranos and two altos, seems like an act of providence. Schuyler
melds the directness of Gertrude Stein with the fantasy of Maurice
Sendak, allowing simple things to become paradoxical and
mysterious.

In Bowles, he found an ideal collaborator. The composer
uses a range of vivid colors to paint the picnic journey: bitonality,
Poulenc-style post-impressionism, the exotic sounds of Morocco
and Ceylon, and pure American tunefulness.

A Picnic Cantata premiered at New York’s Town Hall in
1953, sung by a quartet of Black singers, all of them students at
Juilliard. Although it was well received, it never was published.
Ever since NYFOS rediscovered the piece in the early 1990s, we
vowed to produce the first stereo recording of this work. This
recording is the joyous realization of that dream.


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