When people think of Toni Morrison, who died Monday at 88, the Nobel- and Pulitzer-winning author's novels surely come to mind first. But she also made a splash in classical music, providing the text for a song cycle and an opera.
For the song cycle Honey and Rue, composer Andre Previn drew from several of Morrison's poems. Kathleen Battle premiered the work, scored for solo soprano and chamber orchestra, in 1992 at Carnegie Hall.
"The words offer wistful, often deflected passions," the New York Times said in its review, "and Mr. Previn a man seemingly loath to bear his heart too openly in public has responded with an elegant gentility."
The work has six movements:
1. "First I'll Try Love"
2. "Whose House Is This?"
3. "The Town Is Lit"
4. "Do You Know Him?"
5. "I Am Not Seaworthy"
6. "Take My Mother Home"
Listen to it now, from a 1995 Deutsche Grammophon recording with Previn and the Orchestra of St. Luke's, using the player above.
For the libretto of the 2005 opera Margaret Garner, Morrison drew from the life of a runaway slave, the same inspiration for her novel Beloved. Composer Richard Danielpour created the music.
Watch the "Love Triptych," featuring soprano Marti Newland, from the opera below:
RIP, Toni Morrison.