Richard Lambert Music

Counting the Beats (Op.8)

Four songs for mezzo soprano and piano, to poems by Robert Graves

  1. Counting the Beats
  2. Reproach
  3. She Tells Her Love While Half Asleep
  4. Song: The Far Side of Your Moon

This set of four songs was composed in 1984, by kind permission of Robert Graves. It was premiered at the Royston Arts Festival by Amanda Simpson (mezzo soprano) and the composer (piano), on 11th May 1984.

The first song, which shares its title with the set as a whole, is, for the most part, in a gentle, intimate mood. It starts in the dorian mode, centred on E, and works its way to finish in a rather ambiguous, inconclusive A Major.

The song uses a four- or five-note descending motif, which occurs about 24 times, as well as several inversions of it.

The second song, Reproach, centres around an F minor mode, with a persistent flattened fifth note, which occurs in several places, notably at two of the cadences, giving an unusual feel.

The diminished fifth (diabolus in musica) interval helps to produce an unsettled effect, to word-paint all the more poignantly.

The third song has just three musical lines for the soloist. The piano contributes a significant part to this dialogue, in a freely adapted dorian mode, centred on F sharp.

Its yearning quality is achieved with a mixture of upwardly-reaching melodic lines, chromaticism, and modulation to remote keys. The song concludes with a reference to the predominant motif of the first song, but this time in contrary-motion with the piano.

The final song is a confident peroration in an overall mixolydian mode, centred on the note E. Joyous piano arpeggios and chord clusters join forces with extrovert vocal lines which re-employ several motifs from the first movement, unifying the set still further.

To consolidate this, the piano restates the earlier 'Counting the beats' theme, providing a jubilant coda before the climactic conclusion, which is also left to the piano.

Counting the Beats has also been transcribed for baritone by the composer, as Op.8a.

Performances

  1. 11 May 1984 Royston Arts Festival, Royston Church (Herts. UK), Amanda Simpson (mezzo), Richard Lambert (piano)
  2. 16 July 1984 Ward Freman School, Buntingford (Herts, UK), 'Summer Miscellany', Amanda Simpson (mezzo), Richard Lambert (piano)
  3. 23 May 1996 St Christopher School Letchworth, (Herts, UK), Alex Haywood (mezzo), Richard Lambert (piano)
  4. 12 March 1998 St Helen's School Northwood (Middx UK), Caroline Trutz (mezzo), Richard Lambert (piano)

Listen

This recording of Counting the Beats was produced using computer software called Sibelius: it is not a live recording.

Purchase

You can view and purchase the score of Counting the Beats from Score Exchange.

If you wish to listen to the piece on that website, select the ‘MP3 file’ link instead of playing the embedded score for better audio quality.

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