Reimer CD features 'Last Songs of Robert Owens'

· 4 min read

Reimer CD features ‘Last Songs of Robert Owens’

Associate Professor of Voice Jamie Reimer’s CD “The Last Songs of Robert Owens” will be released on March 19 by Centaur Records.
Jamie Reimer’s CD “The Last Songs of Robert Owens” was released March 19 by Centaur Records.

A collaboration with expatriate composer Robert Owens has led to the release of “The Last Song of Robert Owens,” a new CD by Nebraska’s Jaime Reimer.

“This CD is a culmination of the songs for voice and piano and the chamber music for voice and strings (viola, cello and piano) that Owens wrote at the end of his life,” said Reimer, associate professor of voice in the Glenn Korff School of Music.


The songs included on the CD are the last pieces composed by Owens before his death in 2017. Reimer is joined on the CD by Stacie Haneline, piano; Clark Potter, viola; and Karen Becker, cello. Tom Larson, assistant professor of composition, emerging media and digital arts, engineered the recording.

“Stacie and I have been playing together for over a decade. And to have the opportunity to work with Clark and Karen, who have been my friends and collaborators for years,” Reimer said. “This is the beauty of chamber music — to bring four people together with a common purpose and a common goal and share ideas — that’s the magic of music making. This CD is a product of a lot of really insightful, special, joyful collaboration, and that is a tremendous gift.”

Owens was born in the U.S. in 1925 and grew up in California. After serving in the military, he continued his musical studies in Paris at L’Ecole Normale de Musique under renowned pianist Alfred Cortot. After teaching in the U.S. for two years, he returned to Europe to live and work in Germany, where he was a composer, pianist and stage actor.

Reimer has been researching and performing Owens’ works since 2007. In August 2015, Reimer and the Glenn Korff School of Music presented the North American premiere of Owens’ opera, “Culture! Culture!”. He wrote the opera in Hamburg, Germany, in 1961 and premiered it in Ulm, Germany, in 1970.

Owens traveled to Lincoln in March 2015 to work with students and faculty on his music, but he was unable to make a return trip to see the opera performance that August. He died on Jan. 5, 2017.

Reimer said his music is eminently singable.

“His attention to text is unbelievable,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what poet he is setting. My first introduction to him was Langston Hughes. My dissertation was on the songs he set to Langston Hughes. That was the primary focus of my study and my performance for quite a while.”

The songs included on the CD include the song cycle for soprano and piano “4 Sonnets to Eleonora Duse,” with poetry by Sara Teasdale that were written for Reimer in 2012.

When they started talking about him composing for Reimer, she told him her favorite poet was Teasdale.

“I was so pleased when I saw them because he really did exactly what he said he did. He spent time with the poems, he got inside of the poems, and he created a musical environment for the text that brought it to life in a way that just words alone couldn’t do,” Reimer said. “It’s not always the easiest thing in the world to sing because of some of the intervals that he tends to favor, but when you hear it, it just makes sense. And I love that.”

Eleonora Duse was an Italian silent film actress, whose life was marred by tragedy.

“The keys that he chose are richer, darker, flat keys,” Reimer said. “And I think that color pervades the songs, but it doesn’t make them sad. He finds hope within the dark color that he chose, and he always really was fond of the dark color of my voice, so I think that is also partly why he chose to set them the way he did.”

Reimer knows she has been fortunate to study the music of Owens over this past decade to give her insights into the music he composed.

“As a singer, my role is to bring to life the ink on the page,” Reimer said. “It’s such a fascinating partnership to be able to do that with a living composer because you can ask questions. I feel so fortunate to have worked with Robert and to know what he intended for each of these works. And now to be able to transfer that knowledge to my students and to other performers and scholars. I’m so thrilled to see that.”

The CD is available on Amazon.

Recent News