Three Nature Songs (2008)

Three songs for soprano and pierrot+ ensemble:

Instrumentation: Flute (Piccolo), Clarinet in Bb (Bass Clarinet), Percussion, Piano, Soprano voice, Violin, Cello

Duration:  ca. 13 minutes

Commision and Premiere: 05.21.2008, by Xanthos Ensemble in New York, NY

Notable performances: 09.11.2010, by Great Noise Ensemble, Washington D.C.; 02.17.2012 and by Third Millenium Ensemble, Silver Spring, MD

Baby RobinProgram Notes: In Three Nature Songs, I was looking to set texts that portray nature as making music in some way. Prelude to Sweeter Things—born out of my transcriptions of two main robin songs—signifies the beginning of life. In Tree Toad I have incorporated my transcription of a green tree frog “song” as a recurring motive found mainly in the violin sul ponticello, in addition to whippoorwill and owl song. The final song is dedicated to my great-grandmother, Nana, in remembrance of the beautiful life she lived. I knew her for her last 15 years, the autumn of her earthly life. A Lyric of Autumn ends with a bit of the first song’s robin motive, showing that the earthly human life from birth to death is not a self contained beginning and end… it is meant to be only a “prelude to sweeter things…”

Reviews: “In Daniel Knaggs’s “Three Nature Songs,” a premiere, the soprano Jennifer Ashe sang sweet, airy melodies accompanied by instrumental impressions of chirping birds and croaking frogs.”
–New York Times

“In Three
Nature Songs
, Daniel Knaggs finds gentle humor in poems by Paul Lawrence Dunbar (“Prelude to Sweeter Things”) and William Stanley Braithwaite (“A Lyric of Autumn”). All were beautifully incised, sung with delicacy by Jennifer Ashe, but I found John Brainard’s “The Tree Toad” especially luminous, with the title character in a bit of a comedic tango, with percussion creating metallic raindrops falling off leaves.”
–MusicWeb International Concert Reviews

Listen to 1. Prelude to Sweeter Things below:

Listen to 2. Tree Toad below:

Listen to 3. A Lyric of Autumn below: