How do I love thee?


The story of the sonnets
text and commentary
CD and Downloads
One of the very first people Patricia and I met when we came to Stafford in March 1964 was Reg. Browning, local solicitor and hugely knowledgeable amateur musician who also wrote arts criticisms in the Rugeley Times under the nom de plume "Brave Galuppi", showing even then his Robert Browning colours!

Many years later Reg. asked if I would set some Browning for him and his wife Veronica and the result was Pippa Passes, premièred in 2011 at St Mary’s by Yvonne Howard and the English Piano Trio. Sadly Veronica had died before the work was finished; but thrilled by Yvonne’s performance of Pippa Reg. then wondered if I might set some of the Elizabeth Barrett Browning Sonnets from the Portuguese for him. Some years before, Spode House (part of what was then Hawksyard Priory near Armitage) had run regular arts events, including evenings of music and poetry recitations, and at one of these the Brownings had recited the opening sonnet "I thought once how Theocritus had sung" and the penultimate one "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways."

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In the end I decided to set a third of the Sonnets, opening and closing with Reg’s suggestions, and the result is the present song-cycle, dedicated to Yvonne Howard.  Reg. had been so thrilled to meet her at the Pippa première. Sadly he died before the work was finished; but it was a great pleasure to welcome his family to St Mary's Collegiate Church Stafford for the ‘Sonnets’ premiere on May 18th 2013 -  and hopefully also Reg. and Veronica in spirit.

The première was hugely successful.  Yvonne Howard and pianist Roy Wightman gave a truly memorable and moving first performance and there is a link, top left, celebrating what was a very special evening.  More than that, you can view the whole performance online: with our compliments.

Then on July 20th 2013 Yvonne Howard and her Scottish pianist Scott Mitchell recorded the work at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.  Again, this was a remarkable occasion, with breath-taking ensemble and empathy and this recording is now available for purchase, both by download and also as an audio CD.
Follow the links, top left, for the RNCM page and for the CD and Downloads page -

or simply click here to access the Downloads page.

There are also pages setting out the background to the writing of the Sonnets from the Portuguese and of my settings for them, and a commentary accompanies the text of the sixteen sonnets selected, ending of course with "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways."

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