Virgil Thomson’s ‘Feast of Love’

Sudip Bose at The American Scholar:

We can practically feel the wind blowing upon our cheek, so visceral is Thomson’s tone painting here. The sonorities of the orchestra are bright, the musicians strumming phrases like an ancient lyre, the baritone morphing from priest into bard. There’s a lovely decadence to these lyrical passages in duple and triple time, as the singer pleads with Diana to refrain from hunting in her wooded realm so that the party can continue unimpeded. The chaste Diana, meanwhile, has not been invited to the celebration; that her realm is being violated is suggested by another contrasting musical texture—still lyrical but with hints of darkness not far beneath the surface.

Indeed, The Feast of Love is a work of contrasts and tension. Any impulse toward the voluptuous is tempered by classical restraint. A composer such as Samuel Barber might have taken this same text and produced music more romantically exuberant, but Thomson’s aesthetic, honed by Nadia Boulanger in Paris, demanded simplicity, directness, wittiness, and elegance.

more here.