The song cycle has been a main stay of vocal repertoire for over two centuries now, linking a collection of art songs with a poetic through-line, at times narrative in nature, and at others atmospheric and vague. Book of Travelerspresented by two of The Song Company’s Ensemble Artists, baritone Hayden Barrington and tenor Ethan Taylor, accompanied by Associate Artistic Director Francis Greep on piano, bookended the vast history of song cycles with Beethoven’s An Die Ferne Geliebteand Gabriel Kahane’s Book of Travelers.
The concept of the evening was very clever. The juxtaposition of the prototypical An Die Ferne Geliebtewith the contemporary Book of Travelersbrought out interesting colours in both works. The evening also gave the two young singers an opportunity to flex their vocal prowess, a rare chance in 2020. An die Ferne Geliebte, considered the first proper song cycle, is a collection of poems about love, written in an early-romantic style. Book of Travelersis an American odyssey, based on conversations that Kahane had on trains whilst traveling in the wake of the Trump election in 2016. It is tonally fluid and dense whereas Geliebteis simplistic and internal.