Verse into song: composers and their settings of poems by Thomas Hardy, 1893-1928


This thesis is a report on knowledge gained and is primarily intended as a reference tool for future research in a range of cultural disciplines, particularly for those working on the relationship between music and poetry. The project explores the work and lives of composers who set Hardy's verse to music during his lifetime and seeks to identify the place of Hardy song settings in English musical history and in the personal history of their composers. It also gives evidence that Hardy possessed an extraordinary musical memory, and that, to an extent that has not been appreciated, he consciously wrote various poems for musical settings. The bulk of the record consists of full biographical details of composers whose lives have hitherto not been documented: most of the information has been retrieved from primary sources, and in some cases surviving family members. A schedule of primary materials traced provides an overview of the primary materials sourced and of settings composed during the period under review. In Part I: Musical Beginnings - 'the homeliest of heart-stirrings " it is proposed that Hardy was part poet, part lyricist. Statistics are given to demonstrate the number of his poems that have a significant musical content, and particular attention is paid to those that were intended for music. The main areas of influence that led to this high musical content in Hardy's poetry are outlined, and consideration is given to their influence on his metrical forms. Attention is drawn to Hardy's unusually sharp musical memory, leading to discussion of the various ways in which he makes use of this ability to illustrate a range of themes and concepts in his poetry. Part II: Verse into Song - 'Dear Mr Hardy', concerns itself with interaction between Hardy and composers who wrote to him requesting permission to set particular poems to music. The initial section, Music in England as Hardy Knew It, gives a brief overview of the course of British song in the period, together with details of Hardy's experience of music and of his musical preferences. The Record of Composers Who Set Thomas Hardy's Poetry to Music During His Lifetime, which follows, documents all the composers discovered to be attracted to Hardy's poetry between 1893 and 1928, and the song settings that emerged as a result. In the case of well known composers whose lives are recorded elsewhere, only their connection with Hardy is addressed. Similarly, lesser known or largely forgotten composers are discussed mainly in the light of their connection with Hardy, but since their biographical details are not readily accessible, these are summarized in Appendix A. In light of Gerald Finzi's unique preoccupation with Hardy's poetry, a separate section is devoted to exploring the basis of his self-confessed feelings of kinship with the poet. In the final section, Analysis of Hardy Settings and Associated Correspondence, a selection of settings is examined more closely according to nine distinct types of song produced from his poems. A Discography, which is aimed to be comprehensive up to the present date, provides details of sound recordings of Hardy settings. In addition, a live recording is provided on a CD of songs performed at an entertainment entitled Dear Mr. Hardy, devised by the author and performed in January 2007, since this includes songs unavailable elsewhere

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