from Songs from Emily Dickinson
by Ernst Bacon, 1898-1990
American composer and pianist Ernst Bacon is best remembered for his songs, which number over 200 in his catalogue. Although Bacon's choice of poetry for his song settings is vast, he is recognized for his settings of American poets, including Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. Bacon confirmed his preference for setting texts by the latter poet in his book Words on Music (Syracuse University Press, 1960) when he observed that in "America we have a wealth of lyric poetry calling for song, particularly the contributions of the women, beginning with Emily Dickinson...".
Performers and scholars have ranked Bacon's Dickinson settings among the best in the repertoire and have considered him to be one of Dickinson's best interpreters. Few of Bacon's songs have been published separately. Rather, most of his songs have been issued in collections, and quite often a song will appear in more than one collection, usually in a revised version. One such collection is Bacon's Songs from Emily Dickinson, which was self-published by the composer. Among the thirteen songs in this collection is Bacon's setting of "Wild Nights," a passionate tribute to love. Bacon has provided the singer with ample opportunity for vocal display with the melisma on the last phrase, which is immediately followed by a fairly lengthy postlude for piano. With its brisk tempo and tempestuous mood, "Wild Nights" serves as an exciting closer to a recital program.