2011 New Title
Le Testament 1923 facsimile, limited edition of the holograph score in the hand of Pound's music editor George Antheil, with a re-release of the historic Fantasy LP of the 1971 performance conducted by Robert Hughes, in a new digitally re-mastered audio CD: 110 color plates, an overview of Pound's music by Stephen J. Adams of University of Western Ontario, and essays on the relationship of music to Pound's poetry + 52 pages of Annotations by the editors. Cover art contains the designs for the 1971 San Francisco Opera production by Ariel. Limited edition of 100 copies.
Our 2012 new titles:
Modernist Radio: Radia, A Gloss to the 1933 Futurist Radio Manifesto, or how a Futurist radio turned to nuclear physics to define a new art of the ether. By Pino Masnata. Posthumous first edition. Translation & Introduction by Margaret Fisher
A Threnody for Calvin Simmons:Sop'o muerte se cande . . . by Robert Hughes, for solo voice and orchestra
FAQ: What is the difference between the 1923 Le Testament score and the 1926/1933 performance editions published in 2008 under the title Le Testament: Paroles de Villon?
The 1923 Le Testament score is the definitive version of Pound's first opera, his most important musical composition, which was begun in London, 1920. Before the work was finished, Pound moved to Paris, a city aflame with experimentation. Pound began to think of the Villon melodies in terms of the complex rhythmical structures he was hearing in performances of Stravinsky's music.
Late in 1923 Pound engaged George Antheil, the American composer and pianist from Trenton, New Jersey, to recalculate the opera's metrical divisions. The new score would be in “fractional notation,” the time signatures ranging from 1/8 to 25/32, to account for all possible syllabic durations and patterns of sounds in Villon’s words.
Antheil had entered Paris in June that year with a reputation as a sensational concert pianist and avant-garde composer. He came in awe of Stravinsky and also to challenge him. Antheil would be the new champion of TIME as the sole and true canvas of music. The rhythmic drive of his Mechanisms, Sonata Sauvage, and Airplane Sonata caused pandemonium at his October 4th Paris debut. To a press voracious for the latest and biggest scandal, Antheil was the new futurist darling. To Marcel Duchamp, Eric Satie and Man Ray, he was the instant hero of their dada world. In July, Antheil premiered two new violin sonatas written for the American concert violinist Olga Rudge.
The sonatas were commissioned by Pound, who was intent on keeping Antheil employed in Paris. He next commissioned the re-scoring of his Villon opera. Antheil took down the rhythms and melodies from Pound's dictation. The result was the newly penned 1923 Le Testament score, with its many unusual meters and metrical progressions. Antheil signed off as editor on the last day of 1923.
Pound's earlier orchestration for the opera was brought forward into this 1923 score. The editors confirm Pound's role as composer, based on the earlier score, in almost all aspects of the opera. The annotations in the Le Testament 1923 facsimile edition further clarify the complicated history and substance of the opera's notation, essential background to the preparation of the opera for production..
In 1931 Pound revised the 1923 opera score as a radio melodrama, collaborating with the BBC's legendary experimental Features producer Archie Harding. Pound liberally applied blue and red crayon across sections of the score to reshape the opera's dramatic structure, with changes indicated in the music, added dialogue and external scores to be interpolated into the broadcast. Until now musicians and scholars could only obtain the 1923 full score as a black and white photocopy or microfilm, leading to the conflation of what were essentially two versions of the opera for two different performance venues.
The 52 pages of editors' annotations in this facsimile edition identify and clarify the stage and radio versions; they also offer perspective regarding Pound's intentions, as tracked through all versions of the opera.
The manuscript itself is a unique and visually beautiful document of modernist collaboration across the arts, a stunning palimpsest that reveals the evolution of a musical work. The score is essential to the understanding of Pound's poetic meters, as is explained in the accompanying seminal essay by Margaret Fisher, "Toward a theory of Duration Rhyme," a theory of how Pound's metrical construction in The Cantos is informed by music.
Le Testament 1923 facsimile edition will be of interest to collectors, bibliophiles and followers of twentieth-century opera, radio, and poetry.
Pound himself revised the opera in 1926 and 1933 to accommodate reduced performing forces. Under pressure from musicians who resisted the mathematical acrobatics required to read and play the 1923 music, he also changed the asymmetrical rhythms to simpler plans based on, respectively, 5/8 and 4/4 meters. Our 2008 publication Le Testament, Paroles de Villon is a double volume that contains engraved performance editions for the 1926 and 1933 versions, with libretto, editors' notes, and historical background.
Le Testament: Paroles de Villon will be of interest to collectors and followers of twentieth-century opera and poetry, as well as to vocalists, performing groups and ensembles.
Link to papers on the music of Ezra Pound, in English and Italian
Link to the libretto for the 1923 Le Testament
ABOUT OUR OTHER PUBLISHED TITLES:
Le Testament "Paroles de Villon" 1926 and 1933 Performance editions
Engraved full music scores in a first edition of 200
Introduction by R. Murray Schafer
The one-act 50-minute opera dramatizes the return of exiled poet François Villon to Paris in 1461 to write his ribald and enduring final will and testament.
I. The editor's reconstruction of the 1926 Salle Pleyel Concert version of Le Testament. In 1926 Pound rented the Salle Pleyel in Paris to preview 9 numbers from his opera and a newly composed overture for a long horn he called the "cornet de dessus," to demonstrate his theory of Great Bass. Pound revised the rhythms from the 1923 score—fiercely difficult irrational meters edited by George Antheil for what is now considered to be the urtext of the opera—on a new, 5/8 basis and reduced the performing forces to tenor, bass-baritone, violin, harpsichord, 2 trombones, and kettle drums. Virgil Thomson was in the audience, "The music was not quite a musician's music, though it may well be the finest poet's music since Thomas Campion. . . .It bore family resemblances unmistakable to the Socrate of Satie; and its sound has remained in my memory" (Virgil Thomson).
II. Pound's 1933 final, complete version of the opera, recently discovered, was to provide a practical performing edition. The composer continued to revise the rhythms of the numbers, many on a 3/4 and 4/4 basis, though he retained the signature irrational meters of the opera's middle numbers, Heaulmière's aria, Or y penser, and Dame du ciel from earlier versions. Performing forces are for 9 or more singers, 10–12 instruments.
13 facsimile reproductions of Pound's holograph scores, staging instructions, libretto, background, editor's notes.
July 2010 News: Several discrepancies in the manuscript tradition have recently been resolved for the 1926 Version of Le Testamaent. Download a .pdf file of the corrected pages to the score by clicking here.
Pound's first opera is "a modernist triumph ..."[the poet's] claim to musical immortality" (Richard Taruskin, New York Times, 27 July 2003).
"The performances have a strange intensity, like a cross between Carmina Burana and Diamanda Galas. ...There's a passion in this music which is compelling" (Ivan Hewett, BBC Music Magazine, August 2003).
"This idiosyncratic body of work proves to be full of rare pleasures and well worth hearing" (Joshua Rosenblum, Opera News, August 2003).
Cavalcanti: A Perspective on the Music of Ezra Pound
Essay and full music score in a first edition of 200
The three-act one hour opera is a dramatization of the life of the Florentine poet Guido Cavalcanti (1250-1300), friend of Dante, through eleven of his canzone and ballate. Two additional numbers are settings of poems in Provençal by Sordello.
Part I. A systematic analysis of Pound's music training, the application of his musico-poetic theories, methods of composition, and a music analysis of the opera; the genesis and sources of Pound's Great Bass theory.
Part II. The definitive performance edition of Pound's "Cavalcanti," drawn from the uncatalogued and dispersed music manuscripts in the Beinecke Manuscript and Rare Book Library (Yale University). This is the full music score with piano reduction and stage instructions. All music is composed by Ezra Pound. Additional narrator's script, dialogue, and stage instructions are by Pound; editorial notes by Robert Hughes.
Note regarding "Ezra Pound Composer, The Arch Ensemble for Experimental Music": The 1983 program booklet for the world premiere of "Cavalcanti" by the Arch Ensemble at Herbst Theatre in San Francisco occasionally appears for sale online as a used paperback. The author of the program notes is Robert Hughes, artistic director of the Arch Ensemble, the organization that printed the booklet. N.B.: The program is a staple bound program booklet; while valuable as a collectible, some information in this program is out of date. The original program is now handled through Second Evening Art, available while supplies last: $12.00 + shipping Contact us to order.
Complete Violin Works of Ezra Pound, 1923-1933
First edition of 300, commentary with music scores.
Robert Hughes, Editor
Part I. A literary and technical study of Ezra Pound's solo violin works, many of which were composed for the American specialist in new music, violinist Olga Rudge.
Part II. Thirteen engraved performance scores and seven facsimile reproductions of Pound's holograph scores. Among the eight original compositions is Sestina: Altaforte, the only instance of a musical setting of his own poetry. The volume also includes Pound's settings of poems by Froissart, Dante, and Cavalcanti as well as arrangements of 12th- and 15th-century vocal works for violin.
The Recovery of Ezra Pound's Third Opera: Collis O Heliconii
(settings of poems by Catullus and Sappho)
First edition of 200, commentary with music scores.
By Margaret Fisher
Part I. Analysis of Pound's musical treatment of his favored poems of antiquity: Catullus carmen LXI ("Collis O Heliconii") and Sappho, fragment 1 ("Poikilothron' athanat' Aphrodita").
Part II. The engraved performance edition for violin and voice includes excerpts from the 2 principal arias, 3 incidental numbers, a transcription of Pound's unfinished translation of carmen LXI and Pound's scenario for his dramatic setting of the Catullan poem.