Ned Rorem’s “Little Elegy”

It’s amazing how much can be said in the small space of sixteen measures. A case in point is Little Elegy, a song by American composer Ned Rorem (b. 1923).

Rorem, who was born in Richmond, Indiana and will turn 93 in October, produced a series of operas, three symphonies, countless concertos, and chamber works over the course of his long career. But he’s most known for his prolific contribution to a genre less-often explored by contemporary composers- the art song. In this way, Rorem continues down the path of some of the great songwriter/composers of the past, like Schubert, Hugo Wolf, and Fauré.

Written in 1948 while Rorem was living in France, Little Elegy hints at the hazy impressionism of Debussy with its cooly detached rising and falling parallel chords. In 1993, Ned Rorem commented on the elusive, mysterious powers of creativity, saying that he heard “my own lost voice” in the song:

I can remember like yesterday the actual sensation of writing Little El­egy, though I could not write it today (mainly because it’s already written). I do envy the innocent knack for hitting the nail on the head without crushing my finger; but though youth can be imitated, it cannot be repeated.

Little Elegy is a setting of this poem by Elinor Wylie.

Inspiration could be called inhaling the memory of an act never experienced. 

Arguably, no artist grows up: If he sheds the perceptions of childhood, he ceases being an artist. 

– Ned Rorem

Recordings

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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