Four Madrigals
 

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The pieces – all approximately two minutes in duration – were commissioned to act as a set of companion pieces to the four madrigals by Claudio Monteverdi that Cór Mhaigh Eo has in its repertoire: Sfogava Con Le Stelle, A Un Giro Sol De’Belli Occhi Lucenti, Non Più Guerra, Pietate, and Si In Ch’Io Vorrei Morire.

I’m have tried to make each piece such that it will work as a literal companion piece to its Monteverdi counterpart – i.e. performed immediately after, and as a standalone piece, even potentially removed from the Monteverdi context.

I’m have also tried to compose the set of four as a coherent suite of pieces that relate to each other, and might be performed as a single item on a programme.

i. Afterimage (after Sfogava Con Le Stelle by Monteverdi)

«O imagini belle / de l’idol mio ch’adoro, / sì com’a me mostrate / mentre così splendete / la sua rara beltate, / così mostraste a lei / i vivi ardori miei: / la fareste col vostr’aureo sembiante / pietosa sì come me fate amante», sings the lovesick man to the stars in Monteverdi’s setting of Ottavio Rinuccini, Sfogava Con Le Stelle.

“O beautiful images / of my idol whom I adore, / just as you are showing me / her rare beauty / while you sparkle so well, / so also demonstrate to her / my living ardour: / by your golden appearance you’d make her / compassionate, just as you make me loving.”

My piece is a very gentle, fleeting echo of the supple declamations of Monteverdi’s music and Rinuccini’s words. It’s an ‘afterimage’ – that ghost image that burns just briefly in your vision when exposure to the original has ceased.

ii. Another Light (after A Un Giro Sol De’Belli Occhi Lucenti by Monteverdi)

A un giro sol de’ begl’occhi lucenti / ride l’aria d’intorno, / e’l mar s’acqueta ei venti, / e si fa il ciel d’un altro lume adorno.

One turn of those lovely shining eyes / And the air laughs, / The sea calms, and the wind, / And the heavens are adorned in another light.

This is the first half of the poem by Batista Guarini that Monteverdi sets in A Un Giro Sol… My piece is a brief meditation on these images – the laughing air, the calm seas and winds, and the heavens adorned in light… This simple ritual is punctuated by a recurring hummed chorale, in which distorted shadows of Monteverdi’s opening bass line flicker on the borders of perception.

iii. Surrender (after Non Più Guerra, Pietate by Monteverdi)

A che v’armate / contr’un cor ch’è già preso, e vi si rende?

“Why do you take up arms / against a heart already surrendered?”, sings the pleading lover in Monteverdi’s setting of Guarini, Non Piú Guerra, Pietate.

This image – “a heart already surrendered” – always strikes me as particularly beautiful. I’m so attracted to the idea of a surrender that is in fact a victory, surrender that is a quieting of the mind, an acceptance, a fulfilment…

And so my piece is a brief rumination (meditation) on this phrase, content with it’s own abstract logic: a play between horizontal and vertical in which Monteverdi is not entirely absent…

iv. Fragment (after Si In Ch’Io Vorrei Morire by Monteverdi)

This piece, more than the others in this set, even, is an echo in the Akashic records. None of Maurizio Moro’s sensuous words set so graceful by Monteverdi. No words at all, in fact. Just a hum of resonance and a little unearthed fragment, incomplete.

Sub-title:
Instrumentation: unaccompanied SSATB choir
Duration: circa 8′
Date of composition: 2012
Commissioned by Cór Mhaigh Eo with funds provided by The Arts Council / An Chomhairle Ealaíon.
First Performance: Cór Mhaigh Eo, conducted by Brian Lennon, Holy Trinity Church, Westport, Co. Mayo, Ireland, 29 November 2012
Recording:
Score: Please email orders@ergodos.ie to obtain the latest score.