instrumentation: solo mezzo, chamber orchestra (22.214.171.124.sax; 126.96.36.199; 1.pno; 188.8.131.52.1)
lyricist: Sylvia Plath
I wrote A Birthday Present during the last two weeks of April 2013 for mezzo soprano Elisa Sutherland and the Contemporary Music Ensemble of Northwestern University. The piece deals with the theme of suicide. Sylvia Plath’s text moved me deeply. I did not use the poem whole, but I instead incorporated some of the passages from it that struck me most. While I initially planned on incorporating this piece into a larger one on a broader theme, I eventually decided to let this song of sorts stand alone, as an intimate portrait of a special, tragic individual, who in the midst of a heavy and burdensome existence, offers a special kind of beauty, and a very particular and chilling courage.
Première and only performance, May 31st, 2013 by Elisa Sutherland and the Contemporary Music Ensemble of Northwestern University, conducted by Joe Higgins, in Pick Staiger concert hall, Evanston, IL, USA.