“The Heart wants what it wants - or else it does not care… Not to see what we love, is very terrible - and talking – doesn’t ease it - and nothing does - but just itself.”

                                                                                     Emily Dickinson, Letter to a friend (Spring,1862)


Head, Heart


Noelle McMurtry soprano

Jack Dou, piano

Christian Paquette, flute

Paula Maust, harpsichord

Marc Armitano, viola da gamba

Esther                                         Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre (1665-1729)                      

i.      Recitatif: Par la souveriane sagesse                                                             

ii.     Air: Ah! quelle affreuse image

iii.    Recitatif: De vôtre Epoux

iv.    Recitatif: Eh quoy n’osez vous faire

v.     Air: Venez, bannissez ces alarmes

vi.    Recitatif: Ainsi devant son Maître

vii.   Air: Souvent la verité timide  


Leino Songs                                                                  Kaija Saariaho (b. 1952)              

i.    Sua katselen                                                                                                        

ii.   Sydän

iii.  Rauha

iv.  Iltarukous


Only the Words Themselves Mean What They Say     Kate Soper (b.1981)


i.    Go Away                                                                                                              

ii.   Head, Heart

iii.  Getting to Know Your Body


 Mirabai Songs                                                            John Harbison (b.1938) 


i.    It’s True, I Went to the Market                                                                      ii.   All I Was Doing Was Breathing     

iii.  Why Mira Can’t Go Back to Her Old House

iv.  Where Did You Go?

v.   The Clouds

vi.  Don’t Go, Don’t Go

Program Notes

In Head, Heart, works by  Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre, Kaija Saariaho, Kate Soper, and John Harbison all share a common theme: the struggle between the head and the heart, or in other words, the struggle between navigating one’s own values under the weight of those imposed by the outside world. While the severity of this struggle and its consequences vary greatly, its underlying tension lingers. As our musical protagonists encounter love, loss, death, violence, and ecstatic bliss, they must continually examine what they are willing to sacrifice to achieve their aims.

For de la Guerre's Esther of the Old Testament, it is a question of ultimate survival: should she risk her own life to save the Jewish people of Persia from annihilation at the hands of Haman? For Harbison's Mirabai, should she abandon her family, her possessions, her noble status, and everything she has ever known to devote her life to the Hindu deity Krishna? For both Soper and Saariaho, the heart becomes disembodied altogether, adopting its own voice to teach the head about life, counseling the self to be released from its painful burdens, but at what cost?

Ultimately, it is the inter-play between these parts of ourselves, not the dominance of one over the other, that truly define our actions. By exploring these characters, no matter how divided they seem by time, place, and musical style, we encounter a glimpse of our own fragile selves, as we too navigate the ever-complex binary of the head and the heart. 

May 2019

Baltimore, MD