Against that time: three songs to sonnets by Shakespeare

Download (35.8 kB)
posted on 2023-06-08, 17:41 authored by Ed HughesEd Hughes
"Against That Time... Against My Love" is a song cycle comprising three related settings of Shakespeare sonnets (numbers 49, 63 and 126). The sonnets are drawn from a collection of 154 of William Shakespeare's poems on love, beauty and mortality, first published together in 1609. The song cycle was specially commissioned for the combination of mezzo, viola and piano - a combination in which I developed the viola as an intermediary between lyric mezzo and piano, thus expanding ensemble writing in the song genre. The three sonnets chosen for this sequence meditate particularly on the effect of time upon the appearance of the beloved. In sonnet 49, the poet anticipates the withering of love and being eventually spurned by the beloved. Against that time when thou shalt strangely pass And scarcely greet me Sonnet 63 strikingly notes that although time will ravage youth, it will not be able to efface the memory of beauty: confounding age's cruel knife, That he shall never cut from memory My sweet love's beauty Sonnet 149 is thought to be the close of the group of sonnets addressed to the youth, whose beauty is still celebrated even as he ages. There is a hint that he cannot be protected from the ravages of time indefinitely. She (Nature) may detain, but still not keep, her treasure In setting these lines, I let their rhythms permeate the melodic writing for the singer. The viola and piano act as a kind of echo chamber for the poet's very direct and intimate thoughts. The poems seem modern in attitude and perceptions; the music's harmonies, though often tonally clear, are occasionally fractured and in tension, like the many images in these poignant texts. Against That Time... Against My Love was commissioned by Lake District Summer Music 2014 and first performed by Kathryn Rudge (mezzo-soprano), Garfield Jackson (viola) and Duncan Glenday (piano) at Ambleside Parish Church on Tuesday 5 August 2014. Ed Hughes 2014.


Publication status

  • Published


University of York Music Press

Department affiliated with

  • Music Publications

Full text available

  • Yes

Legacy Posted Date


Usage metrics

    University of Sussex (Publications)


    No categories selected


    Ref. manager