The Phillips Collection frequently introduces new musicians in its Sunday afternoon series. Yesterday the Lydian Chamber Players did a switch and offered new music, with a world premiere of "View from Sandburg" by Washington composer Winifred Hyson.
Writing for soprano, viola, clarinet and piano, Hyson chose six of Carl Sandburg's poems on subjects ranging from God to eternity, with stops for a little love and foolishness along the way. Responding to both the whimsicality and the bedrock integrity of Sandburg's lines, Hyson produced music of gentle humor and honest emotion.
Hyson's intent was neither to shock nor amaze but rather to touch the listener with strong, flowing melodies that fell easily and tastefully upon the ear. Particularly effective was the setting of "Love Is a Deep and a Dark and a Lonely" with its lovely lines of limitation in the clarinet and viola accompanying the soprano's melody. The jazzy dance rhythm of "Dreaming Fool" set off the text delightfully as did the waltz evocations of "Moon Rondeau."
One lapse in subtlety was the added gong for "The Gong of Time." Either less or no gong at all would have been better.
Hyson was blessed in having her songs performed with artistry and sensitivity by soprano Elizabeth Kirkpatrick. Her projection of both words and emotions was splendidly clear, heightened by the warmth of her voice and manner.
Hyson's work was the highlight of a lively program that included some spirited playing from clarinetist Michael Getzin, violinist/violist Melissa Grabiel and pianist Frank Conlon.