Mark Zuckerman

Mark Zuckerman, a composer of “intriguing music of deceptive simplicity ... subtle, persuasive and ― quite simply ― beautiful" (Glyn Pursglove, MusicWeb), has written extensively for virtuoso soloists, chamber ensembles, a cappella choir (including an internationally-recognized collection of Yiddish choral arrangements), wind ensemble, and string orchestra. He attended Juilliard and continued at the University of Michigan, Bard College, and Princeton University studying under David Epstein, George B. Wilson, Elie Yarden, Milton Babbitt and J. K. Randall. His choral music has achieved an international reputation with choruses and at festivals and been performed and recorded by the Gregg Smith Singers, Chicago a cappella, The Goldene Keyt Singers, the New Yiddish Chorale, and The Workman’s Circle Chorus. Notable ensembles such as the Rutgers University Wind Ensemble, the Rutgers University Symphony Band, the Chicago Brass Ensemble, and the Seattle Sinfonia have recorded his instrumental music. Zuckerman earned a PhD from Princeton and is a member of the music faculties at Princeton, Columbia, and Rutgers Universities. He has taught a wide variety of subjects leading to a number of publications, including a book on listening to jazz drawn from his popular jazz survey course. He is a recipient of an artist fellowship from the New Jersey State Council for the Arts and recently had the first act of his opera, The Outlaw and the King, presented by the Opera Workshop at Rutgers University. Characterized as "Highly accessible ... listeners are carefully guided through some very enjoyable musical metaphors ... quite moving" (Steve Schwartz, Classical CD Review), Zuckerman continues to compose for both professional and amateur performers ― especially student groups ― and for all kinds of audiences, from modern music aficionados to children.

Two Browning Settings: Grow Old Along With Me (1998) and Because (1999)

These two choral settings of poetry by Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning were written for my wife, Judith. Grow Old Along With Me was sung at our wedding. This piece is actually a joint effort with Judith, since we both selected the text. It was her idea to use Robert Browning, and she chose as our theme the famous first lines from Browning’s poem, Rabbi Ben Ezra. We then read through several volumes of Browning’s work until we discovered Any Wife to Any Husband, the second stanza of which we felt captured exactly how we felt about each other. In the resulting composite text the lines from the first poem frame the excerpt from the second, a relation reflected in the music.

Grow old along with me!

The best is yet to be!

I have but to be by thee, and thy hand

Will never let mine go, nor heart withstand

The beating of my heart to reach its place.

When shall I look for thee and feel thee gone?

When cry for the old comfort and find none?

Never, I know! Thy soul is in thy face.

Grow old along with me!

The best is yet to be!

Because was a first anniversary gift, presented with the help of the Gregg Smith Singers at their summer workshop in Saranac Lake, New York, close after the actual event. Because sets the Sonnet XXXIX of Elizabeth Barrett Browning from her collection of forty-four Sonnets from the Portuguese. She wrote these in secret, presenting them to her husband Robert in 1847. Although she never meant them to be published, she was, fortunately, persuaded to put them in print. According to Louis Untermeyer (the editor of The Love Poems of Elizabeth and Robert Browning, currently published by Barnes and Noble):

The title was something of a mystery; it was a modest, and misleading, attempt to conceal the unimpeded confessions of an impassioned heart. The poems were obviously not translations; the title was merely one more token of domestic intimacy. At first Mrs. Browning suggested “Sonnets translated from the Bosnian.” But the title finally chosen was another homage to Browning; it was an acknowledgment of her husband’s playful way of calling her his “own little Portuguese” because of her olive skin.

Because is heavily influenced by the music of Lili Boulanger – in particular her Psalm settings – which highlights nuances in the text with dramatic awareness and sensitivity.

The title, Because, comes from the first word which is repeated twice in key positions within the poem and distills the thrust of the text. Within the poem’s rigorous sonnet structure lies a wealth of dramatic and contrasting images and thumbnail sketches evocative of deep feeling and long experience. Consequently, Because shifts moods rapidly along with changes in the text and imagines the emotional foundation for each declaration.

Because thou hast the power and own'st the grace

To look through and behind this mask of me

(Against which years have beat thus blanchingly

With their rains), and behold my soul's true face,

The dim and weary witness of life's race,--

Because thou hast the faith and love to see,

Through that same soul's distracting lethargy,

The patient angel waiting for a place

In the new Heavens,-- because nor sin nor woe,

Nor God's infliction, nor death's neighbourhood,

Nor all which others viewing, turn to go,

Nor all which makes me tired of all, self-viewed,--

Nothing repels thee,… Dearest, teach me so

To pour out gratitude, as thou dost, good!

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