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Letter from Haworth : for soprano (or mezzo), clarinet, cello and piano

by Jennifer Fowler (1984)

Audio Sample

Performance by Lontano ensemble, Lauren Easton from the CD Lines Spun

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Work Overview

The text of Letter from Haworth comes from a letter which Charlotte Bronte wrote in January 1845, to her friend and teacher, Monsieur Heger. During 1842 & 3, Charlotte had studied languages at a school in Brussels run by Madame Heger. Her stay there was fraught with loneliness and homesickness so that her friendship with Monsieur Heger - a lively and gifted teacher - assumed great importance.

When she returned to Yorkshire, M. Heger corresponded with her for a time, as he did with other ex-pupils, but it is obvious that a note of intensity in Charlotte Bronte's replies, put him in a difficult position and his letters became more and more infrequent. At the end of 1844 she had had no word for 6 months. She wrote, in an outburst of grief, this letter I have set.

I found the idea of setting these words interesting, because of the tension between the extremity of emotion conveyed, and the balance and control of the actual use of words. The letter is obsessed, but the intensity is contained in a controlled rise and fall. Here is rhythm, and phrasing, and a limpid simplicity which belongs to the great writer that C.B. was to become.

It seemed to me that "contained intensity" was something that one could do in music. I have tried to reflect in the music, some of that intensity and obsessiveness.

The piece was originally written in 1984, and has been revised in 2005.

Work Details

Year: 1984

Instrumentation: Soprano (or mezzo-soprano), clarinet, cello, piano.

Duration: 13 min.

Difficulty: Advanced

First performance: by London Piace Consort — 5 Dec 84. Purcell Room, London

The text comes from a letter which Charlotte Bronte wrote in 1845, to her friend and teacher, Monsieur Heger, with who she had studied in Brussels.

Revised 2005

Performances of this work

4 Aug 16: Australian Festival of Chamber Music, Townsville Civic Theatre, Townsville. Featuring Ensemble Liaison, Valda Wilson.

4 Aug 2016: at Concert Conversations with Piers Lane 4 (Townsville Civic Theatre). Featuring Valda Wilson, Ensemble Liaison.

10 Jul 99: St Mark's Hall, Old Marylebone Rd, London, UK. Featuring Esther Sheridan, Michael Nebe, Antony Gray, Karen Fodor.

23 Jun 96: Concertzaal, Bethanienklooster, Bardesteeg 6B, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Featuring Gerard Bouhuis, Roeland Duyne, Jannie Pranzer, van Deuren Erik.

31 Aug 92: Eugene Goosens Hall, ABC Ultimo, NSW. Featuring Ros Dunlop, Jane Edwards, Adrian Wallis, Daniel Herscovitch.

11 Mar 92: British Music Information Centre, London, UK. Featuring Antony Gray, Kath Sharman, Rachel Nicholson, Suzanne Summerville.

4 Nov 90: Goodspeed Concert Hall, University of Chicago, USA. Featuring Suzanne Summerville.

12 Jul 89: ABC Studios, Perth. Featuring Elisa Wilson, Nova Ensemble.

1 Jun 86: School of Music, University of Indiana, Bloomington, USA. Featuring Suzanne Summerville.

20 Nov 85: Davis Concert Hall, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Alaska, USA. Featuring Suzanne Summerville.

5 Dec 84: Purcell Room, London. Featuring London Piace Consort.

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