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Songs from Shakespeare for Two Singers and Piano.

Songs from Shakespeare for Two Singers and Piano, by Peter Schickele. Theodore Presser Company, 2011.; 16 pp., $9.95.


Peter Schickele writes in a program note to the score that the piece, conceived in the mid-1950s, is a product of a long bus ride. He had been taking a college course in Shakespeare and wondered what the Bard's words would sound like if set to distinctly non-classical music--pop, jazz, and/or country. For more than 50 years, he and his brother used them as a finale to his song programs.

The piece is scored for piano (with chords for guitar or bass). Both voice parts are written in treble clef, though they were originally sung by men. Don't let these quirks set you off you could perform this piece with an imminent numbers of singers and instrumentalists of all types and timbres--the more the merrier. It could be performed by any age performers as it is easily read.

The piece contains five songs: "Macbeth's Soliloquy," "Hamlet's Soliloquy," "The Three Witches from Macbeth," "Juliet's Soliloquy" and "Funeral Oration from Julius Caesar."

Schickele seems to have quite a fascination with Shakespeare, especially his soliloquies. "Macbeth's Soliloquy" is taken directly from Act V, scene V with only minor word changes, "Manana, manana, manana" replaces "Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow" and non-accented syllables are found on the downbeats of some measures, thus throwing a brief wrench into the rhythmic works. One other incongruity is in the tempo marking of "fast and furious (1/2 note equals c. 168) with a text that reads "Creep on in this petty pace...."

"The Three Witches from Macbeth" is interesting too. It contains the lines of the three witches in Act I, scenes 3 and 1, but it is scored for two singers. Remember, Peter Schickele is the real name of the famous P.D.Q. Bach, so we should expect some twists and turns ... a cowboy tune perhaps?

Then "Juliet's Soliloquy," which actually starts with Romeo (scored for two voices) speaking in the garden. Juliet's actual soliloquy, "Ah me" appears, but with an echo. Then we have the famous line, "Romeo, where is you at?" Now it's crazy silly--teens would surely love it!

The vocal ostinato in "The Funeral Oration from Julius Caesar "makes a wonderful finale: one in which all the singers, instrumentalists, and even audience members can enjoy the repeated chorus of "Brutus is a, Brutus is a, Brutus is an hon'rable man." It's Shakespeare like never before and I am programming it immediately!--Reviewed by Patti Edwards, Coastal Carolina University

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Author:Edwards, Patti
Publication:American Music Teacher
Article Type:Book review
Date:Apr 1, 2012
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