On today’s date in 1970, a new chamber work by the American composer John Corigliano received its premiere performance at a concert given by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the group that had commissioned it.
The new piece, titled “Poem in October,” was scored for tenor voice and eight instruments and was a setting of poetry by Dylan Thomas, the great Welsh poet who died in 1953.
“The thing that most appeals to me is the sound of his words,” explained Corigliano. “Phrases from ‘Poem in October’ like ‘a springful of larks in a rolling cloud’ and ‘the blue altered sky streamed again a wonder of summer’ are in themselves musical.”
“The music itself,” says Corigliano, “is unabashedly lyrical. I sought to convey a pastoral feeling that would match the directness and simplicity of the text, to deal in understatement and succinctness rather than in complexity and theatrical effect.”
Corigliano’s chamber scoring includes three “pastoral” wind instruments—flute, oboe, and clarinet—plus strings, and, perhaps to give the work a slightly archaic feel, a harpsichord.