The Cloisters is one of John Corigliano’s earlier works, dating from 1965. After his friend the poet and playwright William M. Hoffman wrote The Unicorn, Corigliano suggested that several more poems, unified by the motif of the Cloisters, a museum of medieval art at the northern end of Manhattan, might provide wonderful material for a song cycle. The resulting group of four poems touches on romantic moods and picturesque images associated in Hoffman’s mind with the Cloisters. The third song, “Christmas at the Cloisters”, is dedicated to gospel singer Marion Williams. The cycle also exists in a version with orchestral accompaniment.
– Walter Simmons