Concert to highlight work of composer Blumenfeld

Within a month of publishing his notorious collection “Les Fleurs du mal (Flowers of Evil),” (1857), the French poet Charles Baudelaire was charged with insulting public decency and ordered to remove six works from subsequent editions.

Yet Baudelaire’s poems, which center on themes of eroticism and mortality, would influence generations of writers, from Arthur Rimbaud and Marcel Proust to Walter Benjamin.

Harold Blumenfeld

St. Louis composer Harold Blumenfeld, professor emeritus of music in Arts & Sciences, has recorded a major new work based on “Les Fleurs du mal.” Titled “Vers Sataniques (Satanic Verse)”, the half-hour-long composition — for a large orchestra with baritone and mezzo coloratura — is the centerpiece of Blumenfeld’s latest CD, which also includes settings of Rimbaud and of the Caribbean poet Derek Walcott.

At 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 13, in Whitaker Hall, the Department of Music will present “Vers Sataniques” as part of “A Mixed Media Celebration: Harold Blumenfeld’s Latest Works.”

The multimedia concert combine films, audio and live performance and opens with “Being Beauteous,” the first of Blumenfeld’s many settings of Rimbaud.

Performers are soprano Tamara Campbell, who is associated with the music faculty, cellist Elizabeth Macdonald, director of strings, and pianist Seth Carlin, professor of music.

The program continues with filmed excerpts from Blumenfeld’s full-length opera “Seasons in Hell,” which traces Rimbaud’s adolescent adventures as well as his disastrous fortune-seeking in Africa. (The opera was produced and filmed in 1996 by the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.)

Guest baritone Donnie Ray Albert is next in the program singing “Sterne und Stein” (2004), a short song cycle based on poems by Blumenfeld’s friend Rudolf Gelpke, the Swiss-born Farsi scholar.

The program concludes with excerpts from “Vers Sataniques,” which Blumenfeld recorded in 2007 with the National Radio Orchestra of Poland under the baton of Joel Eric Suben.

Vocalists were Albert and mezzo-coloratura Christine Schadeberg. The suite is based on three works from “Les Fleurs du mal”: the languorous “Le Jet d’eau (The Fountain),” the terrifying death-poem “L’Horloge (The Clock)” and, after a brief orchestral interlude, the wistful “La Vie anterieure (Past Life),” a remembrance from the far side of the tomb.

“Baudelaire is a fantastic poet, and ‘La Vie anterieure’ is surely one of his highest achievements,” said Blumenfeld, who first attempted to adapt the poet in the early 1980s but was unsatisfied with the result.

“I was very drawn to him but just wasn’t ready to compose it,” he said.

In 1995, while living in Cassis, France, Blumenfeld began work on “Vers Sataniques,” finishing it — he thought — two years later.

Blumenfeld met Suben, who specializes in recording American works with Eastern European orchestras in 2003, when the New York City Opera debuted Blumenfeld’s “Borgia Infami,” based on the infamously corrupt Renaissance family.

“Joel was very enthusiastic, and we began plotting to work together,” Blumenfeld said.

In 2007, Blumenfeld returned to “Vers Sataniques,” revising it three times before arriving at its present form, while Suben enlisted the National Radio Orchestra of Poland. Recording was completed in early November in the city of Katowice.

“All the plane schedules and train schedules — I was a nervous wreck,” Blumenfeld said. “We had Donnie coming from Dresden and Christine coming from Washington, D.C. But it all came off beautifully.”

Texts and translations of works in French and German will be projected on a large screen above the performers.

“A Mixed Media Celebration” is free and open to the public.

For more information, call 935-5566 or e-mail