From the Diary of Virginia Woolf

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From the Diary of Virginia Woolf is an eight-part song cycle written by Dominick Argento in 1974 for the English mezzo-soprano Janet Baker. [1] The work won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1975.

A song cycle is a group, or cycle, of individually complete songs designed to be performed in a sequence as a unit.

Dominick Argento American composer

Dominick Argento was an American composer known for his lyric operatic and choral music. Among his best known pieces are the operas Postcard from Morocco, Miss Havisham's Fire, The Masque of Angels, and The Aspern Papers. He also is known for the song cycles Six Elizabethan Songs and From the Diary of Virginia Woolf; the latter earned him the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1975. In a predominantly tonal context, his music freely combines tonality, atonality and a lyrical use of twelve-tone writing, though none of Argento's music approaches the experimental avant-garde fashions of the post-World War II era.

A mezzo-soprano or mezzo (, ; Italian: [ˈmɛddzo soˈpraːno] meaning "half soprano") is a type of classical female singing voice whose vocal range lies between the soprano and the contralto voice types. The mezzo-soprano's vocal range usually extends from the A below middle C to the A two octaves above (i.e. A3–A5 in scientific pitch notation, where middle C = C4; 220–880 Hz). In the lower and upper extremes, some mezzo-sopranos may extend down to the F below middle C (F3, 175 Hz) and as high as "high C" (C6, 1047 Hz). The mezzo-soprano voice type is generally divided into the coloratura, lyric, and dramatic mezzo-soprano.


The text of the songs comes from A Writer's Diary: Being Extracts from the Diary of Virginia Woolf, which was published in 1954. [2] (The five-volume diaries edited by Anne Olivier Bell were not published until 1979. [3] )

The choice of a prose, rather than poetic, source for a text is a common theme for Argento, who did the same thing in his cycles Letters from Composers, The Andrée Expedition, and Casa Guidi. In each case, he captures the cadence and flow of these more free-form writings without sacrificing musical structure or melodic interest. The composer's original intention was to use excerpts from Woolf's novel The Waves as the basis for his cycle. But in reading her newly published diaries he discovered a source much richer in musical and expressive possibilities. The highly confessional diary texts illuminate Woolf's inner world in a more immediate way than do her literary works. [1]


  1. The Diary
  2. Anxiety
  3. Fancy
  4. Hardy's Funeral
  5. Rome
  6. War
  7. Parents
  8. Last Entry

Assertion [4]

Assertion [5]


Score available from

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  1. 1 2 "TBD". All Music. All Media Network, LLC. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  2. "TBD". Inc. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  3. "TBD". Inc. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  4. Woods, Noelle (1996). "Reflections of a Life: Biographical Perspectives of Virginia Woolf Illuminated by the Music and Drama of Dominick Argento's Song Cycle, "From the Diary of Virginia Woolf"". Ohio State University. Retrieved 6 November 2015.
  5. Matava, Jacquelyn (2014). "Dominick Argento's "From the Diary of Virginia Woolf": A Preparation Guide for Performers" (PDF). TBD. Indiana University. Retrieved 6 November 2015.