The only orchestral work on Hickey's debut recording, Left at the Fork in the Road, the two-movement work for mezzo-soprano, tenor and chamber orchestra was among his first orchestral works.
The text of this piece comes from the 16th poem in the collection entitled Sagesse (1881), one of the most celebrated works of the French Symbolist poet Paul Verlaine (1844-1896), whose life and art created a great deal of controversy. Portions of the epic work have been set by a variety of composers including Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky, Sorabji, Honegger, Reynaldo Hahn and others. In fact, Verlaine’s verse has suggested instrumental music for numerous composers throughout time, the most notable being Debussy’s popular Clair de lune. The English translation utilized here is that of C.F. MacIntyre.
When asked to write this work for the One World Symphony, I wished to find a text that contained within it a strong element of music, not necessarily in the meaning of the words, but rather an inner music found in great poetry that all but begs to be set, in this case for voices and instruments. But the meaning of the words also made a strong impression on me, sounding as appropriate now as they must have sounded over a century ago. The most literal English equivalent of the title is wisdom.
Sagesse is in two parts, beginning with an instrumental prologue of sorts, in a rolling, pastoral 6/8. The second section is the meat of the piece. The faster, dense texture that begins it soon dies away in high, sustained chords in the strings. The voices enter individually. Most of the stanzas are separated by short, instrumental interludes, the longest of which interjects a repetitive ostinato into the calm texture. The voices re-enter and the music dies away as the instruments bow out and the texture thins to a contemplative silence. On the composer's debut recording, Sung Jin Hong conducted the New Prospect Chamber Players. Jennifer Green, mezzo-soprano; and Doug McCormick, tenor.