Australian organist and composer Calvin Bowman’s album Real and Right and True was released on Deccaearlier this year. We spoke to the art song specialist about the form closest to his heart.
What attracts you to art song as a form?
The human voice is an inherently heartfelt instrument. Good poetry, too, is about affecting the heart. In combination, and with an excellent performance, there are few musical forms which can equal the power of art song in my view.
For you personally, what are the finest examples of the form?
There are so many it’s difficult to say, of course. But I’m always unutterably moved by Schubert’s An die Musik, Gurney’s Sleep, the Butterworth Housman settings, Head’s Foxgloves, and, although it’s not a perfect song, Denis Browne’s To Gratiana dancing and singing.
What governs your choice of text to set in your own art songs?
I must be moved in some way to set a text. It must flow and be lyrical, and contain its own music. Not too much music, however, as that would defeat the purpose of turning it into an art song. I’ve passed over many poems of genius for this reason.