The Real Princess (2015) for Flute, Clarinet, Piano, Percussion, Violin, Viola, Cello, Bass, and Tenor

Performed by Robert Jay Garza III, conductor; Andreas Lamo, flute; Andrew O’Donnell, clarinet; Ryan Brideau, tenor; Duanduan Hao, piano; Brandon Ilaw, percussion; Chelsea Kim, violin; Sophia Sun, viola; Philip Sheegog, cello; Vladimir Bernstein, bass on October 19th at the Juilliard School.

Program note:

The Real Princess is based on a children’s tale written by the Danish writer, Hans Christian Anderson. Also known as The Princess and the Pea, it tells the story of a prince who is looking to marry a true princess. As a rather picky prince, he can’t just marry any princess but one who is able to pass his scrupulous test. Anderson’s stories were some of my favorite bedtime stories as a young child. I always enjoyed its humor and quirkiness, and how all the problems were always resolved magically at the end. The piece progresses with the soloist singing three different roles: the narrator, the old queen, and the princess. By employing an exaggerated range and various vocal techniques such as speech singing, falsetto, and narration, the piece is told in a story telling manner. Overall, the piece has a lighter and fairytale-like quality that follows the story in it's whimsical depiction of this sprightly tale.

TEXT:
There was once a Prince and he wanted a princess, but then she must be a real Princess. He travelled right round the world to find one; but there was always something wrong. There were plenty of princesses, but whether they were real Princesses he had great difficulty in discovering. There was always something wrong.

So at last he had to come home again, and he was very sad because he wanted a real princess so badly.

One evening there was a terrible storm; it thundered and lightninged and the rain poured down in torrents; indeed it was a fearful night.

In the middle of the storm somebody knocked at the town gate, and the old king himself went to open it.

It was a Princess who stood outside, but she was in a terrible state from the rain and the storm. She said she was a real Princess.

“Well, we shall soon see if that is true!" thought the old Queen, but she said nothing. She went into the bedroom, took all the bedclothes off and laid a pea on the bedstead: then she took twenty mattresses and piled them on the top of the pea, and then twenty feather beds on the top of the mattresses. This was where the princess was to sleep that night. In the morning they asked her how she had slept.

“Oh terribly badly!” said the princess. “I have hardly closed my eyes the whole night! Heaven knows what was in the bed. It was terrible!”

They saw at once that she must be a real princess when she had felt the pea through twenty mattresses and twenty feather beds. So the prince took her to be his wife, for now he was sure that he had found a real princess, and the pea was put into the museum, where it may still be seen if no one has stolen it.

Now this is a true story.

© 2014 by Nicky Sohn