Michael is thrilled to have been commissioned by this year’s Oxford Lieder Festival to write a new song cycle setting words by the extraordinary philosopher Spinoza.
He is also delighted to be writing the new work for the tenor James Gilchrist, who he has known since a student in Cambridge.
About the work, Michael says:
On the face of it, the choice of Spinoza as a text for music is a doubtful one… Yet I have found there to be facets to his writings, which attract me greatly, and which have conjured music very vividly for me.
First, the propositions in the Ethics may indeed be spare, but their aphoristic nature makes them, to my mind, poetic and open not only to thought, but also to the imagination. Second, for a writer known for his logic, it’s been fascinating to realise quite how much of Spinoza’s investigations are about human emotion. Third, I am fascinated by the paradox that whilst Spinoza is often portrayed as an atheist, he often focuses on the divine. And for all his fearsome rationality, he describes the summit of understanding as a ‘third kind of knowledge’, which can only be reached through intuition, which, for me, is something of mystical attitude.
Lastly, as I follow my own path as a liberal Jew, I wonder how much Spinoza, excommunicated for his ‘dangerous’ beliefs by his Jewish community, still remained Jewish inside. Thinking about Spinoza’s identity has led me to entitle my piece Baruch, his original name, which means ‘blessed’ in Hebrew.(excerpts from programme notes)
Michael Zev Gordon première at Oxford Lieder Festival
Tuesday 13th October, 1pm
Baruch: Ten Propositions of Baruch Spinoza
James Gilchrist: tenor
Anna Tillbrook: piano
Live Stream from Holywell Music Room, Oxford