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Music Text

John Ashbery (E)



Abbreviations (PDF)


Boosey & Hawkes (Hendon Music)

This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.


World Premiere
Tanglewood Music Cener, Lenox, MA
Tanglewood Music Center Fellows / James Levine
Composer's Notes

After composing Syringa in 1978 on a poem of John Ashbery, I have frequently returned to his poetry with the hope of finding texts that suggested musical settings. On learning that there might be a performance of some of my old choral works, and having heard how skillful modern choruses are, I decided to compose an a capella vocal sextet on three Ashbery poems that attracted my attention, partly because of their sardonic humor (suggesting the title, Mad-regales) that implies a deeper undertone.

- Elliott Carter

Reproduction Rights:
This programme note can be reproduced free of charge in concert programmes with a credit to the composer

Press Quotes

"...a bracing modern madrigal, enigmatic, multi-layered, mischievous and mad — just what John Ashbery’s crazy poems deserved."
The Times (UK)

“In these surprisingly nutty madrigals, illogic becomes delight. Words pop up madly where they don't fit but are made to belong nevertheless.”
Los Angeles Times

Recommended Recording

BBC Singers
Bridge Records 9314 A/B

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