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Hyperion Records

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Why Seek Ye the Living Among the Dead? (1905) by Howard Pyle (1853-1911)
American Illustrators Gallery, NYC / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67449
Recording details: August 2003
Temple Church, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: March 2005
Total duration: 19 minutes 18 seconds

Madrigali. Six 'Fire Songs' on Italian Renaissance Poems
composer
author of text

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
In his choral cycle Madrigali: Six ‘Fire Songs’ on Italian Renaissance Poems for a cappella chorus (1987), Lauridsen expropriates techniques favoured by sixteenth-century Italian madrigalists to paint a very different emotional landscape from that of Lux aeterna. Instead of light, hope and serenity, the Madrigali are haunted by darkness, yearning and, at times, profound despair. As in Lux aeterna, Lauridsen employs the technique of using a single chord – a sonority that he has dubbed the ‘fire-chord’ (a B flat minor triad with a scorching added C) – to unify the entire score and symbolize its fevered mood. As the composer has testified: ‘The choral masterpieces of the High Renaissance, especially the madrigals of Monteverdi and Gesualdo, provided the inspiration for my own Madrigali. Italian love poems of that era have constituted a rich lyric source for many composers, and while reading them I became increasingly intrigued by the symbolic image of flames, burning and fire that recurred within this context.’

Derived from what the composer has identified as the ‘single, primal sonority’ of the ‘fire-chord’, the Madrigali relate an inner narrative of evanescent hope and erotic obsession. Some of the techniques that the composer has assimilated from Monteverdi and his contemporaries include a pervasive modality, bold harmonic juxtapositions, word-painting through melodic and harmonic means; intricate counterpoint, and Augenmusik – literally ‘eye-music’. (Used extensively by Marenzio and other sixteenth-century madrigal composers, the practice of Augenmusik exploits the purely graphic appearance of the score to convey a musical meaning to the performer’s gaze.) Cast as an extended Bogenform (‘arch form’), the Madrigali are unified through the use of recurring thematic and harmonic material, especially between movements one and six, and two and five. The capstone and climax of the cycle is reached in the fourth madrigal, Io piango (‘I weep’), a lament that reaches a shattering climax on a complex chord of harrowing dissonance. The final movement, Se per havervi, oime (‘If, alas, when I gave you my heart’), provides the Madrigali with an ambivalent conclusion; after the emotional immolation so movingly portrayed in the preceding madrigals, Lauridsen sagely eschews a facile resolution by ending the cycle on a subdued but insistently unresolved dissonance. As the composer once remarked, ‘these settings are passionate, earthy, dramatic – red wine music’.

from notes by Byron Adams © 2005

Other albums featuring this work
'Lauridsen: Lux aeterna' (SACDA67449)
Lauridsen: Lux aeterna
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