Four Seasons - (2005) Anton Gill
for high voice and piano
for Jonathan Barker
These texts remain under copyright and are therefore not fully reproduced
i: Summer [ 4 pages, circa 3' 30" ]
Overblown like blowsy women.
Dry brown fields and wilting grass.
streets a fiery cauldron.
ii: Autumn [ 5 pages, circa 2' 50" ]
Suddenly the air is
Gusts of wind blow leaves in circles;
Night comes early,
No-one sits outside....
iii: Winter [ 5 pages, circa 2' 50" ]
heating steams the mirror,
Frost upon the window panes -
the dirty alleys
Drifts the sullen snow....
iv: Spring [ 5 pages, circa 2' 35" ]
time to wake up early
Glad to see fresh buds on trees
And the dancers
put their shoes on
To take up the dance....
Total [19 pages, circa 11' 35" ]
Born in 1948, Anton Gill was educated at Chigwell School and Clare College,
Cambridge. Gill worked for the English Stage Company, the Arts Council of
Great Britain, and the BBC before becoming a full-time writer in 1984. He is
the author of many books, largely in the field of contemporary history,
including The Journey Back from Hell: Conversations with Concentration
Camp Survivors (winner of the H. H. Wingate Award), A Dance Between
Flames: Berlin Between the Wars, and An Honourable Defeat: A History
of the German Resistance to Hitler, studies of Germany before, during,
and after World War II.
He draws on material from a range of sources, including public and private
archives and collections, published and unpublished works, letters, diaries,
interviews, and conversations in Art Love, a highly acclaimed
biography of the millionairess art collector, Peggy Guggenheim
(1898-1979)—an effort which was supported by the Peggy Guggenheim Collection
and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. When he isn't writing, Anton Gill
travels. When he is, he lives in Bloomsbury, London, when last checked.
Written for high voice and piano, the four song settings are unified by a
harmonic scheme based on F minor with its augmented sixth, D natural. Thus
the key signatures and tonal regions include F, A flat and D, with the
cadential C filling the missing region's function. The character of the
settings are modern, for the seasons are not viewed nostalgically by Gill,
but plainly and with opposing metaphors, the unpleasant alongside the
The opening, "Summer," contrasts the weight and lethargy of city heat with
"kids dancing to the hosepipe sprinklers' music." It is summer.
The somewhat abrupt change to "Autumn" is characterized by an alternation
between 7/4 and 4/4 meters and bridge material in which the voice, notated
often in triple rhythms, does not agree with the underlying 4/4
regularities. A city "Winter" follows, somewhat austere and highlighting the
augmented fourth between A-flat and D, from the cycle's motivic "Klang,"
after which "Spring" rushes on the opening gesture defined by D and the
respelled A-flat -- an edgy G sharp.
The voice line finally rises to the height of that G-sharp with the phrase,
"Dawn brings hope," for though Gill tempers that hope with other images, the
ending vision is of a time and place in spring where a songbird might
A solo work for mezzo soprano and organ to texts of Anton Gill is titled
Ashes and Eyes.