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January 2014
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Tuesday Impromptu: Poems by Michelangelo?


How did he find the time?

Michelangelo rode into history on that storm surge of art known as the Italian Renaissance. How incredible he should also have been gifted with words. There seemed to be no limit to his creative genius, as painter in the Sistine Chapel, or sculptor of David, or architect of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Composer Benjamin Britten seized upon the lesser-known side of that creative mind, Michelangelo Buonarroti’s poetry. Britten set seven of his sonnets to song. On Tuesday at 2:00 PM WFMT presents an Impromptu with mezzo-soprano Julia Bentley and Friends presenting song settings of Michelangelo Buonarroti by Benjamin Britten.

Sonnet XVI by Michelangelo Buonarroti

Just as in pen and ink
there is a high, low, and medium style,
and in marble are images rich and vile,
according to the art with which we fashion it,
so, my dear lord, in your heart,
along with pride, are perhaps some humble thoughts:
but I draw thence only what is proper for myself
in accordance with what my features show.
Who sows sighs, tears and lamentations
(dew from heaven on earth, pure and simple,
converts itself differently to varied seeds)
will reap and gather tears and sorrow;
he who gazes upon exalted beauty with such pain
will have doubtful hopes and bitter, certain sorrows.

Julia Bentley

When a performer’s name becomes associated with MusicNOW, eighth blackbird or Pierre Boulez, one comes to expect two things: very contemporary, and very challenging. For mezzo-soprano Julia Bentley, it’s just a day in the life that might just as likely include Rossini or J.S. Bach. For Tuesday’s Impromptu, Julia Bentley splits the difference with her flock of DePaul students singing music by a twentieth century Englishman with an uncanny gift for vocal lyricism: Benjamin Britten.

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