Honey and Rue

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Honey and Rue
by André Previn
FormSong cycle
TextToni Morrison
Performed5 January 1992 (1992-01-05): Carnegie Hall, New York City
Published1993 (1993): Chester Music, London
Scoringsoprano and small orchestra

Honey and Rue is a song cycle composed by Oscar and Grammy award winner André Previn and premiered by Kathleen Battle, with words from poems by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison.[1] It is scored for a solo soprano and small orchestra and is influenced by the rhythms of jazz, blues and American spirituals.[2] The New York Times termed the composition "a model of understated luxury, rich and plastic without the need of ornament".[3]


According to The Critical Companion to Toni Morrison, Kathleen Battle had been moved by Morrison's novel The Bluest Eye, and asked Previn and Morrison to create a song cycle for her. The cycle was ultimately commissioned by Carnegie Hall.[2] The lyrics, according to the Chicago Tribune, "move across a specifically black, urban, female landscape of experience".[4]

It was premiered in 1992, sung by Battle in the Carnegie Hall, but most notably remembered as the Boston Symphony's Tanglewood Festival opener, conducted by Seiji Ozawa.[3] This was the first time Morrison had written for an original score.[2] The score was published in 1993 by Chester Music.[5] Battle also performed the work that year at the Ravinia Festival with conductor John Nelson and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.[6]

Battle recorded the cycle with the Orchestra of St. Luke's and Previn conducting, on the Deutsche Grammophon label in 1995, together with Samuel Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915, and George Gershwin's, "I Loves You, Porgy" and "Summertime". In its review of the recording , the Baltimore Sun praised the work as "a wonderful cycle with a splendid text".[7] That same year Battle sang the role with the New York Philharmonic, conductor Leonard Slatkin, and Toni Morrison as orator at Avery Fisher Hall.[8] Battle has also performed the work with other major orchestras, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen in 1997,[9] the Philadelphia Orchestra and conductor Gerard Schwarz at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts in 2000,[10] and the Detroit Symphony and conductor Thomas Wilkins in 2006.[11]

Soprano Harolyn Blackwell has also performed the work several times with Previn as conductor, including performances with the Orchestra of St. Luke's in New York (1996),[12] the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (1998),[13] the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo (1999), and the Oslo Philharmonic (2001).[14] Previn led the Oslo Philharmonic in performances of the work again in 2006, this time with soprano Nicole Cabell.[15] More recently, soprano Jeanine De Bique performed the cycle to open the 102nd season of Matinee Musicale in the Anderson Center in Cincinnati in May 2015.[16] Soprano Elizabeth Futral is scheduled to sing the work in August 2015 with the Pacific Symphony.


  1. "First I'll Try Love"
  2. "Whose House Is This"
  3. "The Town Is Lit"
  4. "Do You Know Him"
  5. "I Am Not Seaworthy"
  6. "Take My Mother Home"


  1. ^ Karen F. Stein (2009). Reading, Learning, Teaching Toni Morrison. Peter Lang. pp. 12–. ISBN 978-1-4331-0223-3.
  2. ^ a b c Carmen Gillespie (2007). Critical Companion to Toni Morrison: A Literary Reference to Her Life and Work. Infobase Publishing. pp. 256–. ISBN 978-1-4381-0857-5.
  3. ^ a b Bernard, Holland. "Review/Music; Kathleen Battle Sings a Custom-Made Cycle". The New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  4. ^ von Rhein, John. "Battle Serves `Honey And Rue'". Chicago Tribune. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  5. ^ OCLC 30907218
  6. ^ John von Rhein (July 26, 1993). "Something New Under The Stars: Previn's Song Cycle Gets Its Local Debut". Chicago Tribune.
  7. ^ Wigler, Stephen. "Previn and Battle produce treasurable disc Savory: Recording's best part is 'Honey and Rue,' written by Andre Previn for Kathleen Battle". The Baltimore Sun. The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  8. ^ Anthony Tommasini (December 16, 1995). "Music Review: Life After Met Goes On For Battle, Next Door". The New York Times.
  9. ^ Mary Lou Loper (September 7, 1997). "Philharmonic Strikes Up Another Season". Los Angeles Times.
  10. ^ David Patrick Stearns (July 29, 2000). "Battle Is Triumphant, Bernstein Is Battered The Soprano Was Exquisite In Songs And Spirituals. A "West Side" Medley For Orchestra Was Botched". Philadelphia Media Network.
  11. ^ Ben Mattison (27 February 2006). "Detroit Symphony to Honor Kathleen Battle at Gala". Playbill.
  12. ^ James R. Oestreich (October 19, 1996). "Classical". The New York Times.
  13. ^ Robert Croan. "No Limits: Two Distinctive Singers Who Dare To Cross The Lines of Style". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  14. ^ "Musikalsk vismann". Dagbladet. 30 March 2001.
  15. ^ "Korenes korverk". 20 October 2006.
  16. ^ Gelfand, Janelle. "Soprano soars in André Previn's Honey and Rue". Cincinnati.com. Cincinnati.com. Retrieved 5 May 2015.

Further reading[edit]

  • Fontaine, Jeanette. "He Sang, She Sang: The Gendered Song Cycle." Journal of Singing 70.1 (2013): 97.
  • Gingerich, Katrina. "The Journey of the Song Cycle: From “The Iliad” to “American Idiot." Musical Offerings 1.2 (2010): 3.
  • Baby, Tar, et al. "Works byToni Morrison." Toni Morrison (2010): 307.

External links[edit]