Ronald Corp

Conductor & Composer

The Wayfarer

Printed vocal and orchestral scores (with parts) are available.  Please contact the office by clicking below.

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Listen to excerpts:



Notes on the Mahler-Corp connection…

The Wayfarer represented a contribution by Ronald Corp towards the centenary celebrations of Gustav Mahler who died in 1911, and is subtitled ‘In Homage to Mahler’.  The concept was initially proposed by members of Highgate Choral Society who felt it would be interesting to have such a piece as part of the programme in their Royal Festival Hall concert on July 9th, 2011.  The Musicians Benevolent Fund is the dedicatee of the work.  2011 also marked Corp’s 60th birthday, and hence the RFH concert acted as a double celebration, bringing in the London Chorus and the New London Children’s Chorus, both of which Corp founded.

Mahler’s poetry settings are mostly of Friedrich Rückert, but in the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (‘Songs of a Wayfarer’), he sets his own poems which are influenced by the folk poetry found in one of his favourite books, Des Knaben Wunderhorn.  The four poems he sets are:

1.  Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit macht (When my darling has her wedding day)
2.  Ging heut’ Morgen über’s Feld (I walked across the fields this morning)
3.  Ich hab’ ein glühend Messer (I have a gleaming knife)
4.  Die zwei blauen Augen von meinem Schatz (The two blue eyes of my beloved)

Mahler quotes extensively from this cycle in his Symphony No. 1 in D, adding programmatic and intepretative possibilities to what is otherwise a purely orchestral work.  Corp devises out of three poems a single-movement vocal/choral symphonic structure in three sections:

1.  I Went this Morning over the Field (i.e. ‘Ging heut’ Morgen’, the second of Mahler’s set)
2.  In Springtime (‘Im Lenz’, a poem set by Mahler as the first of his Drei Lieder, 1880)
3.  When my Sweetheart is Married (i.e. ‘Wenn mein Schatz’, the first of Mahler’s set)

Corp admits to feeling little affinity with what he sees as the tendency to ‘gloominess’ in Mahler’s musical outlook, preferring instead the nature depictions and sense, at times, of spirtual euphoria.  He sets the texts in English, adapting the originals and devising new translations where apt.  Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music, also for sixteen solo singers and orchestra, is an admitted influence.  The way Corp quotes from Mahler suggests an engagement with the 1st Symphony as much as the original song-cycle – yet all condensed into the relatively short span of a fifteen-minute work.

Of the four Mahler poems the ‘walking song’ is by far the most positive, with a delight in the new day, dew still on the grass, birds and flowers greeting the protagonist as he passes and the world sparkling into life with the rising sun.  Corp re-orders the text and brings the refrain forward so that the singers’ first entry is on ‘How the world delights me’, an expression of ebullience culminating in a colossal D major 7 chord for all voices spread over three and a half octaves.  By the next refrain, the expansiveness and flowing energy is shared by the orchestra which teems with activity – layers of different speeds in the strings and full-spaced chords in the winds.

The second section is a near-straight transcription of Mahler’s song, ‘Im Lenz’: essentially an orchestration of the piano score, with occasional added lines offering new harmonic colours and with both male and female voices incorporated.   It can be heard spread between excerpts 2 and 3 in the player above – it begins with a sudden, rising wind glissando.

Just as the first section deploys Mahler’s ‘walking’ theme and the desultory motto of his ‘wedding’ song, so the third section refers to both these again; it also quotes the funereal motif of the ‘two blue eyes’ song (as does the Mahler Symphony) and recapitulates other music from section one.  Section three is perhaps, then, the most complex, shifting swiftly between the different moods  evoked by the motifs, while the earlier ebullience is now less forthright.  In the choral-texture setting of the final lines, ‘All singing must now be done./ At night, when I go to sleep,/ I think of my sorrow,/ I think of my sorrow, my sorrow’, there is a sense of a big valediction, sleep/death being nigh, the text luxuriating in a mellow D major.  From the personal despair of the wayfarer and his sorrow at his loved one marrying another, we have moved to what appears to be a universal acceptance of sorrow as a necessary, even rightful, condition – an effect reinforced by the warm concordance of harmony and orchestration.

© David M. Hoyle, 2011