(1999) For chorus and orchestra
Text: John Dryden
SATB chorus; 2222/2210/pf(syn)/2perc/str
Commissioned by the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music in celebration of the sesquicentennial of the University 1999.
World Premiere: 10 December
1999 University of Wisconsin at Madison.
University Choir and Orchestra
Beverly Taylor, conductor
Publisher: Chester Music Ltd
The composition is vital and lively, holding interest from a tension-filled quiet beginning to the last dramatic fading away of the music. In between great rhythmic variety, contemporary melodic lines, dissonances that provided bite and substance, and a continuity and flow to the music: all demonstrating that Musgrave has mastered her craft.
John Aehi, Wisconsin State Journal, 01/12/1999
In any work using singers, the choice of text is obviously very important, and also important that it should reflect in some way the occasion that it celebrates. The poem of John Dryden, "A Song for St Cecilia's Day," written over three hundred years ago still seems to me to be a wonderful way to acknowledge this anniversary, particularly since the performance is scheduled within a few days of St Cecilia's birthday, who, as we all know is the patron Saint of music.
In the poem Dryden recognizes the power of music in all its many forms and this idea is perhaps best summed up in the words of the second verse "What passion cannot Music raise and quell!" Then there are all the different instruments that personify the various emotions: the warlike trumpet and drums; the "soft complaining flute" describing the woes of hopeless lovers; the "sharp violins" with their jealous pangs and frantic indignation, (the sharpness of the violins referring to the recent introduction of this instrument when 17th-century ears were more accustomed to the gentler sounds of the viol); then there is the lyre in connection with Orpheus who appears in the seventh verse.
Another vital element of music is harmony and Dryden enfolds the whole poem with this thought. Thus the opening lines "From harmony, from heavenly harmony" which bestirs Nature to "obey Music's power" and at the very end where music's power causes "The spheres to move, and sing the great Creator's praise..."
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