Leigh-Post solos in poem-to-music adaptation

Reid Stratton

In 1942, while searching for texts to use in a song cycle, Frank Martin found Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem, “The Lay of the Love and the Death of Cornet Christopher Rilke.”
Martin fell in love. However, there were problems. A language barrier arose, as the poem is in German, while Martin is a French-speaking Swiss composer. Also, the poem is not so much a colorful vignette as it is an epic story, and one that does not lend itself very well to music.
All the same, Martin forged ahead, and lucky for us, he did a spectacular job of setting Rilke’s poem.
And lucky for us, conductor Bridget-Michaele Reischl and the Lawrence Chamber Orchestra will be performing Frank Martin’s “The Lay of the Love and the Death of Cornet Christopher Rilke” this Saturday, April 5 at 8 p.m. in Memorial Chapel.
This piece, first performed in 1945, is a departure from Martin’s usual devotion to the 12-tone modernism of Arnold Schoenberg, and gives a clear image of Martin’s own voice.
While first envisioned as a song cycle for voice and piano, the existing version of “Christopher Rilke” calls for a small orchestra and solo alto voice. Performing the alto part is Karen Leigh-Post.
Leigh-Post is an assistant professor of music here at Lawrence, and a member of the voice department. She received her undergraduate education at Lawrence, going on to the University of Arizona for her Masters degree, and Rutgers University for her D.M.A.
Leigh-Post has performed all over the world, including New York, Germany, Budapest, and the Czech Republic. She has especially distinguished herself in the world of musical theater, performing styles ranging from Bernstein to Verdi to Gilbert & Sullivan.
So the big question is, “Should I go to this concert?”
Well, if a beautiful piece, an impressive conductor, and a world-class soloist aren’t enough, listen to the players’ enormous excitement for the performance. One violinist went so far as to declare, “It should be pretty cool.” Those aren’t words you throw around lightly.

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