To the evening star (2009)

“The final works were song cycles. Andrew Schultz’s To the Evening Star is symmetrical and applies diverse styles to 19th-century English poetry, sometimes conspiring in the allurement of their picture painting (as in the outer poems by Yeats and Blake) and sometimes subverting it (the quick, spiky setting of Hopkins). The central poem by Wordsworth, full of self doubt, drew warmth and empathy from soprano Alison Morgan.” [Peter McCallum, Sydney Morning Herald, 15 September 2010.]

“One of two highlights of the concert was Andrew Schultz’s To the Evening Star (2009; Best Song Cycle, Paul Lowin Awards), a reflection, writes the composer, on the inner creative life, responding to poems by Yeats, Hopkins, Longfellow, WH Davis and Blake. Yeats dreams lyrically of rural escape while the busy piano suggests both the “bee-loud glade” and “the roadway…the pavements gray.” For Hopkins’ Pied Beauty, Schultz and singer, Alison Morgan, hit the syllables hard and rapidly, evoking excitement at the density of natural riches. Longfellow’s anxiety about a creative life only half fulfilled is rendered emotionally, a soaring complaint, the piano thundering in empathy, while Davies’ Money, O! contrastively celebrates being poor but happy in a vigorous folksy, music theatre idiom. Finally, Blake’s To the Evening Star is a gloriously sung prayer for divine protection framed by piano scoring that seems to embrace the whole of the world, the playing constantly pushing out to the bottom and top-most notes simultaneously until at rest.” [Keith Gallasch, RealTime, issue #99 Oct-Nov 2010]

“The longest piece on the CD is a song-cycle To the evening star, winner in 2009 of the prestigious Paul Lowin Award. It is performed expertly by Margaret Schindler and Stephen Emmerson for whom it was composed. Schultz has chosen poetry as a stimulus for five songs which ‘reflect on the creative inner life’. Providing contrast in musical expression for both singer and pianist, each one is a gem. The first song, “Lake Isle of Innisfree”, is a setting of words by Yeats which describe the psychological experience of seeking solitude and peace. It is beautiful and introspective, with some luminous writing for the voice. In contrasting mood, the next song “Pied beauty” is a joyful setting of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ delightful poem that begins: “Glory be to God for dappled things – For skies of couple-colour as a brindled cow”. “Mezzo Cammin” is dark and rather bleak in comparison, with spacious and sometimes thunderous writing for piano in Schultz’s interpretation of words by Longfellow: ‘The Cataract of death far thundering from the heights” – impressive. We breathe again in “Money, O!” where the poet W H Davies philosophises somewhat on the value of money:

When I had money, money, O!

My many friends proved all untrue;

But now I have no money, O!

My friends are real, though very few.

The piano accompaniments to the five verses are endlessly interesting and varied in this spirited piece. The final song in the cycle gives its name to the whole: “To the evening star”, words by William Blake. It is a deep, peaceful reflection on life, with some glorious curving melodies and great swoops of sound. In the whole cycle, including the choice of texts, Schultz successfully blends creativity and skill to produce a work of depth, sincerity and musicality.” [Gwen Bennett, “Deep blue and dirty,” Music Trust of Australia, 1 August 2015]

“Schultz has an eye and an ear for settable words. Schindler’s voice is light and flexible, her vibrato even throughout an impressive range. Singer and pianist deliver a variety of moody and scenic texts – Yeats yearning for “Lake Isle of Innisfree”, homespun philosophy in “Money, O!” by W.H.Davies, with the piano running rings around the voice.

The title song, Blake’s image-packed “To the Evening Star”, invites repeated hearings, as much for the carefully crafted and performed piano part as for the voice.” [Elizabeth Silsbury, “Deep blue and dirty,” Music Trust of Australia, 1 August 2015]

“To the evening star opus 80, won the Paul Lowin Song Cycle Prize in 2009. Written for soprano and piano with words by 5 renowned British poets, W B Yeats, Gerald Manley Hopkins, H W Longfellow, W H Davies and William Blake, it reflects on the “creative inner life.” Lake Isle of Innisfree is hauntingly beautiful, sung with simple elegance by Alison Morgan who tackles the intervallic leaps, the extreme range and the tonal challenges with surety. Pied beauty is an effervescent song of praise, sung with the skittishness of the animals it depicts. Mezzo Cammin is a grave contemplation of mortality, which ends with a moment of intense drama. Alison Morgan gives the remaining two songs in this bracket, Money, O! and To the evening star the feel of old folk-songs wrapped in modern idioms. It is perhaps in this collection that her voice reveals its maximum beauty and technical skill.” [Shamistha de Soysa, SoundsLikeSydney, 13 October 2018.]

“Schultz again maps the journey of life, fulfilment, regret and final acceptance in his To the Evening Star (2009).  He quotes Dante’s Divine Comedy – “In the middle of the journey of our life, I found myself in a dark wood with the right road lost”, and chooses texts from various great poets, including Yeats, Longfellow and Blake. There is fine pianism here, and a couple of deliciously playful movements. In particular, the eccentric Pied Beauty could easily be mistaken for Britten. The cycle is written simply, for piano and voice, leaving elements clear and unadorned.”  [Jane Edwards, “This moment must be sung. Chamber songs of Andrew Schultz,” LoudMouth, 2 September 2018.]