TO MY LITTLE DREAMER
Mariya Kaganskaya, mezzo-soprano
Alla Gladysheva, piano
LC2304 - 5/12/2023
© ℗ 2023 Lexicon Classics
Executive Producer: Gillian Riesen Producer/Recording/Mixing/Mastering Engineer: Jiahui Li
Assistant Engineers: Ian Rictor, Joi Marchetti, Sarita Gutierrez, Mingqing Yuan, Adela (Yixuan) Zu, Shengyuan Li and Yushan Ji
Artwork - Emitha LLC
Recorded on 11/1/22-11/11/22 and 1/8/2023 at The Ute and William K. Bowes, Jr. Center for Performing Arts, Studio G
1. Wiegenlied - Johannes Brahms (1:59)
2. Cradle Song - Reginald De Koven (2:19)
3. Ninna Nanna - Francesco Paolo Tosti (3:15)
4. Die gute Nacht, die ich dir sage - Clara Schumann (2:31)
5. Колыбельная - Alexander Gretchaninov (1:57)
6. Bonne nuit! - Jules Massenet (2:48)
7. Berceuse - Cécile Chaminade (2:22)
8. Armenian lullaby - Alexander Spendiarov (3:22)
9. Тихо вечер догорает - Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (2:08)
10. Nana - Manuel de Falla (1:31)
11. Rozhinkes mit Mandlen - Abraham Goldfaden (arr. Gladysheva) (3:52)
12. Ой ходить сон коло вікон - Trad. Ukrainian (arr. Gladysheva) (2:12)
13. Wiegenlied - Engelbert Humperdinck (2:30)
14. Cradle Song, an Idyll - Frederic Nicholls Löhr (3:27)
15. Колыбельная - Sergey Taneyev (2:23)
16. Durme, Durme - Trad. Sephardic (arr. Gladysheva) (3:35)
17. Колыбельная Op. 22 - Anatoly Lyadov (1:13)
18. Cradle Song - Anatoly Lyadov (1:59)
19. Бретонская колыбельная песня - Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov (2:31)
20. Hush-a-by, sweetie - Frank E. Tours (4:18)
21. Lullaby - William Mason (3:03)
22. To My Little Son - Florence Price (1:58)
23. Wiegenlied - Bernhard Flies (3:08)
24. Little Dreamer (2022) - Elinor Armer (2:23)
Lullabies have been an integral part of children’s lives for at least 5,000 years. Modern research has shown that babies can recognize the music they hear in utero – that it affects their hearts and brains in a clear, measurable way. Classical music in particular is generally believed to be enriching and soothing for young children, and to aid in their development. The bulk of this album was recorded in the two weeks leading up to the birth of my son, David. His grandmother and I recorded a range of pieces in the languages of his cultural heritage (German, Russian, Ukrainian, Yiddish, and English), as well as works that reflect the wider world around him. The final song, Little Dreamer, was composed for him by our dear friend Elinor Armer. We hope that other little dreamers will be relaxed and enriched by these pieces as well, and that these lullabies will inspire them to dream in the years to come.
- Mariya Kaganskaya
NOTES ON THE ALBUM - COMING SOON
Lullabies are simple songs, with an even simpler goal: they’re meant to lull infants to sleep. But this seemingly mundane form has captured the interest of composers of classical music for hundreds of years. From all across continental Europe, dipping into Eurasia, and across the pond to the Americas, To My Little Dreamer collects lullabies that are meant to span the distance between the recital hall and the cradle side. Interestingly, unlike most albums or recitals, which are ordered by shared themes or countries of origin, the album is laid out by related key areas—creating a harmonic flow from lullaby to lullaby, so as not to startle any young listeners who may be drifting off to sleep.
The album’s first track, Johannes Brahms’ Wiegenlied Op.49, no.4, is not only one of the composer’s best known works, but also perhaps one of the most widely known lullabies of all time. Translated and sung all over the world, the piece has come to be known simply as Brahms’ Lullaby. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the song demonstrates many of the traits found most commonly in lullabies; the melody is mostly stepwise and uses larger intervals only to outline the harmony (so as to function easily a cappella), has a relatively confined overall range (so as to be accessible to amateur singers), and uses a triple-meter (to imply a rocking motion). Brahms’ original accompaniment, as recorded here, enhances these lullaby qualities in a number of remarkable ways: nesting rocking motions in both hands in the introduction and constructing a constant eighth note rhythm under the melody (meant to lull the listener with it’s repetition), which Brahms only breaks away from in the second half, presumably to allow the singer to stretch the melodic half notes without noticeably dilating the accompaniment’s rhythm. Interestingly, this accompaniment was originally premiered in concert in Vienna by Clara Schumann, who also composed the fourth track on the album.
Die Gute Nacht, die ich dir sage, Clara Schumann’s setting of Friedrich Rückert’s poem of the same name, is almost more of an art song, simply masquerading as a lullaby. Its significant vocal pauses between phrases and extended piano postlude necessitate the accompaniment for the melody to function, breaking from the a cappella capability traditional for a lullaby. Further, the third phrase, which describes an angel carrying a message between the singer and the listener, paints that distance by traveling to a distant chromatic key, and shows the motion with an entirely syncopated accompaniment, both of which would be lost without the piano’s support. That said, the poetry remains clearly a lullaby, offering comfort and wishing the listener a good night.
Some fifty years later, in France, Cécile Chaminade composed Berceuse (Lullaby), with a text by French librettist Édouard Guinand. Chaminade, despite lacking some of the recognizability today of many of her contemporaries, was tremendously lauded during her lifetime, even earning the Légion d'Honneur, the first female composer ever to do so. This setting, while holding more closely to traditional lullaby devices than the Schumann, beautifully incorporates some of the signpost stylings of French romanticism. Even the very opening of the melody is harmonized as an added tone over the tonic harmony, which then moves up by step to the leading tone, a member of the dominant harmony. This tonic/dominant alternation is very common in lullabies, helping the listener to hear the movement back and forth as a form of rocking (much like the triple meter). Here though, this consistent added A (scale degree 6) over tonic helps to provide a French stylistic color, and also allows the melody to connect back to the refrain by step when coming out of the verses.
Manuel de Falla’s “Nana” is the fifth movement of his Siete canciones populares españolas, one of the most popular collections of Spanish art songs ever written. The accompaniment for the setting consists of a single repeating figure, whose notes change slightly to accommodate the harmony, but whose rhythm is exactly the same from the song’s first bar up through its penultimate—a level of repetition clearly ideal for lulling the listener to sleep. Seemingly unusual at first glance, however, this accompanimental figure is in 2/4 time, a duple meter. When the voice enters in the third bar, however, the melody is entirely in triplets over top of the accompaniment’s duple repetition, meeting expectations for a traditional lullaby feel. These vocal cross rhythms are common, but not consistent, throughout the piece, creating a hazy, almost improvisational feel to the vocal line; this effect, while extremely natural sounding, requires an incredible level of rhythmic precision from the singer—making performances of the song both sound quite easy and be, in fact, quite difficult.
The album also includes four tracks which are without the voice, lullabies for solo piano: tracks 8, 14, 18, and 21. The second of these, Cradle Song, an Idyll, calls for an interesting historical anecdote. The piece was written by British composer Frederic Nicholls Löhr for his two sons, Victor and Hermann. The latter of these, Hermann Löhr, later grew up to become a composer himself, outstripping his father in fame and writing a wealth of art songs, many of which survive in the repertoire to this day. Another of these solo piano works, Anatoly Lyadov’s Cradle Song (track 18), is an exquisitely beautiful and somber, albeit brief, work. Despite its printed triple meter, the piece begins with equal quarter note rocking motions, masking the meter aurally. It’s not until the right hand establishes the melody that the true triple meter emerges. Even then, the left hand continues its two beat pattern, creating unaligned layers of rocking motions, which only coincide every 2 measures, on the downbeat. The overall effect is surprisingly ethereal sounding, and a little unpredictable—like slowly nodding off into another time, or another world.
Of all the various and unique lullabies recorded as a part of To My Little Dreamer, Florence Price’s “To My Little Son” feels the most distantly removed from the typical lullaby. A setting Julia Johnson Davis’s poem of the same name, the undated work employs a duple meter and frequent melodic repeated pitches, creating a simple speech-like sound, rather than the more typical lilting melody of a lullaby. Add to this the remarkable chromaticism that Price employs, the melody becomes very far from the kind of simple a cappella tune that traditionally is found in lullabies. In its place, Price’s art song
simply speaks to the resting infant, painting a dream-like soundscape in alignment with Davis’s text. Considering the poetry, this simple approach makes a very fundamental sort of sense—the baby here is not being lulled to sleep at all, but rather is likely already sound asleep. The introspective reflection of the poem is not really meant for the sleeping infant at all, but rather for the singer, the mother, themselves.
The album’s final track, Little Dreamer, is a brand-new composition, an a cappella lullaby, with text by the performer and music by Elinor Armer. The text is sweet and fantastical, evoking images from the everyday to the impossible—the range in which the young mind finds its joys. Armer, a veteran composer (a student of Milhaud and the founder of the San Francisco Conservatory’s Composition Department) sets Kaganskaya’s poetry perfectly, providing a melody so simple and succinct in its construction that it feels archetypal: a masterclass in what a lullaby ought to be. The melody’s triple meter and mostly stepwise writing climbs to its peak with the beginning of the tune’s third phrase, before falling back to where it began for its repeat. Cleverly, the tune employs diatonic writing in the first three phrases, before coloring the fourth through modal mixture (the addition of chromatic harmony, drawn from the minor), just as the poetry refers to the fantastical in each of the two verses. A final lovely touch on the work—the piece begins and ends with five hummed notes, that make up an open fifth, D A A D D. This plays on the symbols that are used to indicate dominant and tonic harmonies, V and I, which in this key, D major, can stand in for A and D, respectively. This means that the song’s first and last five notes can be spelled “D A V I D,” the name of Kaganskaya’s son, for whom the song was written.