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Sir Arthur Somervell: designs on the song cycle

Holmes, Jennifer (2000) Sir Arthur Somervell: designs on the song cycle. Masters thesis, Durham University.



The study in the following pages explores Sir Arthur Somervell's fascination with the song cycle. Its appeal drew together two of his favourite passions, that is, songwriting and storytelling. All the cycles are settings of nineteenth-century poets with narratives drawn from single works or contrived from a collection of poems. Although Somervell was looked upon as old-fashioned in his art, in the matter of the song cycle he is seen trying to keep abreast of the times by following trends that were being manifest by his contemporaries and sometimes being innovative from his own inspiration. The theme of experimentation is the line of enquiry that the thesis explores. The six song cycles fall into three groups (of two each) in that process, though not strictly chronologically. Maud, the first (1898), from Tennyson's epic drama of obsessive love and tragedy, is placed with A Shropshire Lad (1904), Housman's bittersweet chronicle of a young military recruit, although two subsequent cycles intervened, but in style both betray Schumannesque influence. The cycles of 1901 (Love in Springtime) and 1903 (Wind Flowers), the two least-known in his output of song cycles, show Somervell experimenting with anthology. The last two cycles, James Lee's Wife, 1907 and A Broken Arc, 1923, though separated by nearly two decades, fail together naturally, united by their lyric source, Robert Browning, and by their more expansive style.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:2000
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:01 Aug 2012 11:42

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