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How Do I Love Thee?

Erik-Peter Mortensen on February 15, 2013 02:19

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About the Track

When I heard that my dear friend and professional colleague, Nena Tahil, was to marry her long time sweetheart, Marc Wolfert, on 12/12/12 (an auspicious date!), I offered to compose the couple a wedding song set to the lyrics and musical style of their choice. Marc selected Sonnett XLIII. "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways..." by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) set to the style of Puccini, or a similar composer. (Both Nena and Marc had heard my orchestral composition, "Journey of the Spirit" and definitely wanted something with a full orchestra). After a few drafts, and their approval, this art song is what I came up with, and I was thrilled when they asked me to sing it for them live at their wedding (which I did, accompanied by my own virtual orchestration)!

Cover Art

Nena happens to also be an amazing silk painter, so it was only natural to include a detail section of her painting, "Journey to Oneness", for the Cover Art. This large, impressive painting was also on display for the wedding, and all guests were invited to write their well-wishes directly on the canvass!

About the poet

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (6 March 1806 – 29 June 1861) was one of the most prominent poets of the Victorian era. Her poetry was widely popular in both England and the United States during her lifetime. A collection of her last poems was published by her husband, Robert Browning, shortly after her death.

Much of Barrett Browning’s work carries a religious theme. She had read and studied such famous literary works as Milton's Paradise Lost and Dante's Inferno. She says in her writing, "We want the sense of the saturation of Christ's blood upon the souls of our poets, that it may cry through them in answer to the ceaseless wail of the Sphinx of our humanity, expounding agony into renovation. Something of this has been perceived in art when its glory was at the fullest. Something of a yearning after this may be seen among the Greek Christian poets, something which would have been much with a stronger faculty". She believed that "Christ's religion is essentially poetry—poetry glorified". She explored the religious aspect in many of her poems, especially in her early work, such as the sonnets. She was interested in theological debate, had learned Hebrew and read the Hebrew Bible. The poem Aurora Leigh, for example, features religious imagery and allusion to the apocalypse.

Sonnet. XLIII. "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways..."

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Recording

Erik-Peter Mortensen, baritone
Virtual orchestration and realization by Erik-Peter Mortensen
Production, Erik-Peter Mortensen

Instrumentation

Piccolo
Flute 1
Flute 2
Oboe
English Horn
Clarinet
Bassoon
3 French Horns
Timpani
Harp
Strings

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