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Sometimes with One I Love (from Songs of the Poet)
Norman Mathews

voice, piano


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(performed by Tracy Bidleman)

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Program/Peformance notes:

Songs of the Poet is a song cycle, not in the sense of telling a narrative, but rather in depicting some of the major themes set forth by Walt Whitman—albeit set with a dramatic arc. The composer chose a rather traditional tonal framework for the songs because he felt that this best conveyed the intense passions portrayed in the poetry. The cycle begins on an ambiguous D-major-minor tonal center but ends triumphantly in D major. In all of Mathews’s songs the piano plays an equal role with the singer. His grouping of Whitman poems deals with the essentiality of love to the human spirit and its redeeming qualities, even when unrequited; the enormous importance of music and nature to Whitman’s writing; how the artist’s work mirrors the essence of his being; and the transcendence of the soul. The title for the cycle was chosen because of the inordinate number of instances in which Whitman refers to his poems as songs.

In Sometimes With One I Love, Whitman expresses his belief that love, even when “unreturn’d,” is of imminent value. Mathews expresses the rejection with great passion, which then serves as the catalyst of artistic creation. In Ned Rorem’s fascinating but divergent approach to this same poem, he seemingly treated the rejection with resignation.


Sometimes with one I love I fill myself with rage for fear I effuse unreturn’d love,
But now I think there is no unreturn’d love, the pay is certain one way or another,
(I loved a certain person ardently and my love was not return’d,
Yet out of that I have written these songs.)
- Walt Whitman

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