Bowdoin College’s News Department has just published a piece about Mark Abel’s collaboration with Alyssa Gillespie, chair of the school’s Russian department, which resulted in the song cycle “Four Poems of Marina Tsvetaeva.”
(The piece provides) a good introduction to a poet who still has a “semi-obscure status in America’s world of letters,” said Abel. “Tsvetaeva’s poetic subjects span a vast amount of terrain—from mythology to political upheaval to intense personal relationships to romantic and existential musings (and more). I’m hoping that the cycle on which Professor Gillespie and I collaborated will spur listeners and readers alike to delve further into Tsvetaeva’s universe.”
“I saw early on that Abel was an extraordinarily sensitive and perceptive reader of verse … ,” said Gillespie, who met with Abel in California last fall (“It felt like we were old friends,” she said).
Abel’s way of setting verse to music is completely different from the Russian practice, Gillespie observed. “It emphasizes expressivity, emotion, and turns of phrase over melody and rhythm. Every psychological nuance, every tiny shift in mood and idea is reflected in his music. I find it refreshing, exciting, and extraordinarily revealing.”