Photo: Christian Steiner


 Thea Musgrave


Wild Winter I
(1993) — Lamentations for voices and viols
Duration: 19'
Soprano, 2 Tenors, Bass; Consort of viols (2 treble, 1 tenor, 2 bass)
Texts: Owen, Lorca, Crane, Hugo, Pushkin, Petrarch, Trakl
Commissioned by the Lichfield Festival

See also Wild Winter II

World Premiere:  16 July 1993, Lichfield Cathedral, England
Red Byrd and Fretwork

Publisher:  Novello & Co Ltd

Composer's Note:

One of the challenges of writing Wild Winter was to find an appropriate text to commemorate the Siege of Lichfield. When I did not find a contemporary text that was suitably lyrical or dramatic, I had the idea that it might be interesting to select poems from many different times and countries.

The poems I eventually chose were non-specific as to time and place, yet they all shared the powerful emotions resulting from the inevitable losses and cruelties of any war. I also chose the poems because of certain words or phrases which I could use to overlap or link the setting of one poem with another — their merging cries of protest creating a sonic tapestry of shared experience.

To mention a few examples:

War broke and the winter of the world...
No se oye otra cose que el llanto (weeping)...
Do not weep maiden, for war is kind...
Le donne lagrimose...(women, weeping)...
Den wilden Orgel des Wintersturms...(wild, winterstorm)...Wilde Wölfe...(wild wolves)
Wild winter...



I made English translations of all these poems (inevitably rather free so the words would be comfortably singable) — however, to emphasize the universality of human response to the consequences of war, I would prefer they be sung in their original languages.

For me, thoughts of this distant war, the Siege of Lichfield, brings to mind my concern and outrage with the happenings in the world today, where we are witnessing once again "man's inhumanity to man."


WILD WINTER: Lamentations for chorus and strings.

The issues over which wars are fought are various: the cries of protest against the inevitable cruelties and loss are universal. Thus these texts chosen to commemorate the Siege of Lichfield are from different times and places, but they surely echo some of the same emotions.


War broke: and now the Winter of the world
....closes in.

Excerpt from: 1914. Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)


He cerrado mi balcón
porque no quiero oír el llanto,
pero por detrás de los grises muros
no se oye otra cosa que el llanto.

Hay muy pocos ángeles que canten,
hay muy pocos perros que ladren,
mil violines caben en la palma de mi mano.

Pero el llanto es un perro inmenso,
el llanto es un ángel inmenso,
el llanto es un violín inmenso,
las lágrimas amordazan al viento,
y no se oye otra cosa que el llanto.

I have closed my balcony
for I do not want to hear the weeping,
but behind those dark grey walls
there is nothing left but the sound of weeping.

There are so few angels to sing,
there are so few dogs to bark,
I can hold in the palm of my hand a thousand violins.

But the weeping is a great dog howling,
the weeping is a great angel soaring,
the weeping is a great violin playing,
the flowing tears quieten the wind,
there is nothing left but the sound of weeping.

*Casida del llanto. García Lorca (1896 -1936)


Do not weep, maiden, for war is kind.
Because your lover threw wild hands toward the sky
And the affrighted steed ran on alone,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

Hoarse, booming drums of the regiment,
Little souls who thirst for fight,
These men were born to drill and die.
The unexplained glory flies above them,
Great is the battle-god, great, and his kingdom -
A field where a thousand corpses lie.

(No se oye otra cosa que el llanto.                                     There is nothing left but the sound of weeping.)

Do not weep, babe, for war is kind.
Because your father tumbled in the yellow trenches,
Raged at his breast, gulped and died,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

Swift blazing flag of the regiment,
Eagle with crest of red and gold,
These men were born to drill and die.
Point for them the virtue of slaughter,
Make plain to them the excellence of killing
And a field where a thousand corpses lie.

(No se oye otra cosa que el llanto.                                     There is nothing left but the sound of weeping.)

Mother whose heart hung humble as a button
On the bright splendid shroud of your son,
Do not weep.
War is kind.
War is Kind.
                          Stephen Crane. (1871-1900)


War broke, war broke.

War broke: and now...Winter...
With perishing great darkness closes in...
Now begin famines of thought and feeling.
Wilfred Owen. Op cit.


Guerre, ô guerre occupée au choc des
Toute pleine du bruit furieux des clairons,
Ô buveuse de sang, qui, farouche, flétrie,
Hideuse, entrâine l'homme en cette ivrognerie,
Nuée où le destin se déforme, où Dieu fuit,
Où flotte une clarté plus noire que la nuit,
Folle immense, de vent et de foudres armée,
A quoi sers-tu, géante, á quoi sers-tu.....

War, oh war echoing with the clash of marching men,
resounding with the angry noise of blaring bugles,
Thou drinker of blood, who art savage, withered,
Hideous, thou draggest man into this frenzied orgy,
This raging storm where destiny is distorted, and there is no
where an eerie clarity pervades, darker than the very night,
Gigantic Goddess, with great shafts of lightning thou art
What purpose dost thou serve, oh Goddess, what purpose?

     From: Bêtise de la guerre. Victor Hugo. (1802-1885)


**Вopoн к воронү летит,
Вopoн воронү кричит:
“Вopoн! где б нам отобедатъ?
Как бы нам о том проведатъ?”

      (Géante, à quoi sers-tu?)

Вopoн воронү в ответ:
“Знаю, будет нам обед;
В чистом поле под ракитой
Богатыръ лежит убитый.

      (Signor nostro, aita.)

Кем убит и очего,
Знает сокол лишъ его,
Да кобылка вороныя,
Да хозяйка молодая.

      (O Signor nostro, aita, aita)

Сокол в рошу улетел,
На кобылку недруг сел,
А хозяйка ждет милого,
Не убитого, живого.

Crow to crow did fly,
Crow to crow did screech,
"Where shall we dine tonight?

How shall we find out about it?

      (O Goddess, what purpose dost thou serve?)

Crow to crow did answer,
"I know where we will dine…
In the meadow under the tree
A knight lies slain.

     (Oh Lord, our Father, save us!)

Who killed him and why,
Only his hawk knows,
And, yes, the chestnut mare,
And, yes, the young maiden."

     (O Lord, our father, save us, O save us.)

The hawk to the grove has flown,
On the mare now sits the enemy,
But the maiden waits for her new love…
Not dead, but living.

                 Untitled poem by Pushkin (1799-1837)


***As I was walking all alane
I heard twa corbies making a mane* (moan)
The tane unto the t'other say
"Where sall we gang and dine today?"

     (Géante, …à quoi sers-tu?

"In behint yon auld fail* dyke*, (turf) (wall)
I wot there lies a new slain knight;
And nae body kens that he lies there,
But his hawk, his hound, and lady fair.

"His hound is to the hunting gane,
His hawk to fetch the wild fowl hame,
His lady's ta'en another mate
So we may mak our dinner sweet.

     (Signor nostro, aita.

"Ye'll sit on his white hause bane*, (collarbone)
And I'll pike out his bonny blue een;
Wi ae lock o' his gowden hair,
We'll theek* our nest when it grows bare. (thatch)

     (Signor nostro, aita.

"Mony a one for him makes mane*, (moan)
But none sall ken where he is gane:
O'er his white banes, when they are bare,
The wind sall blow for evermair".
                               Scots traditional

     (Signor nostro, aita.

Goddess! What purpose dost thou serve?)



Oh Lord, our Father, save us!)


Oh Lord, our Father, save us!)


Oh Lord, our Father, save us!)

LAMENT #4 (Madrigal)

Le donne lagrimose, e'l vulgo inerme
De la tenera etate, e i vecchi stanchi
C'hanno se in odio e la soverchia vita,
E i neri fraticelli e i bigi e i bianchi,
Coll'altre schiere travagliate e inferme,
Gridan: O Signor nostro, aita, aita!

The women who are weeping, the youngest children,
they are left defenceless, with tired old men,
who hate themselves and the lie that overwhelms them,
and the monks clad in black, in grey and in white;
all together, in their misery and suffering,
they cry: "Oh Lord our Father, we pray you save us".

Excerpt from Sonnet of Petrarch (1304-1374)

LAMENT #5 (Chorale)

Den wilden Orgeln des Wintersturms
Gleicht des Volkes finstrer Zorn
Die purpurne Woge der Schlacht,
Entlaubter Sterne.

          (O Signor nostro, aita....

Mit zerbrochnen Brauen, silbernen Armen
Winkt sterbenden Soldaten die Nacht.
Im Schatten der herbstlichen Esche
Seufzen die Geister der Erschlagenen.

          (O Signor nostro, aita....

Dornige Wildnis umgärtet die Stadt.
Von blutenden Stufen jagt der Mond
Die erschrockenen Frauen.
Wilde Wölfe brachen durchs Tor.

Wild organ music of the winter storm
Is the black fury of man,
The great purple wave of war,
The naked starlight.

Oh Lord, save us...)

With her broken brow, silvery arms
Night envelopes the dying soldiers.
In the shadow of the autumnal ash tree
Ghosts of the slain cry out.

Oh Lord, save us...)

A thorny wilderness girdles the city.
From the blood stained threshold
The moon pursues all the terrified women.
Wild wolves broke through the gate.

     Im Osten (In The East). Georg Trakl.(1887-1925)


....(wild) winter closes in.
For after Spring had bloomed in early Greece,
And Summer blazed her glory out with Rome,
An Autumn softly fell, a harvest home,
A slow grand age, and rich with all increase.
But now, for us, wild winter, and the need
Of sowings for new spring, and blood for seed.
                                      Wilfred Owen op cit.


* Casida = a short poetic composition of Arabic or Persian origin.

** The Pushkin poem was written in 1828.

***This version of the Scots traditional ballad was published in 1803, an earlier version dates from 1611.


Wild Winter I
Red Byrd, Fretwork
NMC D 167 - See CD Review

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