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Poem in October (1970)
Arranged for chamber orchestra by the composer (1999; revised 2003)

see also: original version with chamber ensemble


Commissioned by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, 1969

Chamber orchestra version first performed as part of the composer’s A Dylan Thomas Trilogy, which was premiered March 11, 1999, by John Aler, tenor, and the National Symphony Orchestra, Leonard Slatkin, Kennedy Center, Washington, DC


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Scored for tenor and chamber orchestra: flute, oboe, clarinet, harpsichord, and strings

Duration  17 minutes



Can be heard as part of A Dylan Thomas Trilogy, with Sir Thomas Allen, baritone; Ty Jackson, boy soprano; John Tessler, tenor, and the Nashville Symphony Orchestra and Chorus; Leonard Slatkin, conductor Naxos 8.559394  (2008)


Program note

What appeals to me most about Dylan Thomas’s poetry is the sound of his words. Phrases from Poem in October like “a springful of larks in a rolling cloud” and “the blue altered sky streamed again a wonder of summer” are in themselves musical. Then there is Thormas’s incredibly rich and concentrated imagery. Within a single sentence he will have three or four images in addition to the main one, so that a composer has a tremendous amount of material to work with.

Further, I love the cadential irregularity in the Thomas poems I have set, for it allowed me to write rhythmically irregular music without violating the pulse of the words. And I admire Thomas’s organization. For instance, near the end ofa poem he tends to recapituale not only words but earlier moments, so that building a musical structure on his texts seem an extremely natural undertaking.

Poem in October is cast as a rondo, where interludes for various combinations of the solo instruments separate the seven verses. The music itself is unabashedly lyrical. I sought to convey a pastoral feeling that would match the directness and simplicity of the text, to deal in understatement and succinctness rather than in complexity and theatrical effect.

                     — John Corigliano

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