Matti Kovler and conductor George Manahan, 19th Underwood New Music Readings, Miller Theater

Program Note

The Unsung Serenade for chamber orchestra has been inspired by Shakespeare’s sonnet 73. The melodic motto of this work appears in two earlier musical settings of the sonnet, for voice and piano (in Hebrew, and in the original English).

The Underwood New Music Readings by the American Composers Orchestra at the Miller Theater provided a wonderful opportunity to turn the sonnet from a song for a voice and piano into a symphonic work without words, a potential that, as I have always felt, was present in the musical material.

The irony of Shakespeare’s sonnet 73, which talks ultimately about love, is that the flame, which nourishes the passion, is also the one that ultimately consumes it. It is the unfulfilled potential, which makes “love more strong”. Further, it is the perception of the elements that are fading — yellow leaves, ruined choirs, the sunset and a dying flame, which has the power to bring about a greater love.

The piece, therefore, begins with restraint, and slowly accumulates tension, with elements of the “serenade” melody released gradually. However, even in the ultimate “lyric” portion of the piece full “satisfaction” is never achieved.

Matti Kovler

William Shakespeare / Sonnet 73

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou seest the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.


American Composers Orchestra, Conductor:
George Manahan


“Young Composers Share Their New Sounds”
May 24th, 2010, by Steve Smith

Mr. Kovler’s “Unsung Serenade,” in which a gloom akin to Ravel’s pregnant murk in “La Valse” gave birth to brighter sonorities, had an emotive potency that suggested, of all things, a potentially estimable operatic composer in the making.