Hyperion Records

Man of Sorrows
composer
2005; for Stephen Hough

Recordings
'Tsontakis: Man of Sorrows; Berg: Piano Sonata; Webern: Variations' (CDA67564)
Tsontakis: Man of Sorrows; Berg: Piano Sonata; Webern: Variations
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Details
Movement 1: Ecce homo
Movement 2: Es muss sein(?) – Labyrinthus
Movement 3: Lacrymosa: Stabat Mater
Movement 4: Gethsemane: Shards
Movement 5: Jesu Joy – Crucifixus
Movement 6: Vir dolorum, tanquam oves erravimus

Man of Sorrows
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Wonder and awe describe the opening of Man of Sorrows. Tsontakis refers to the feeling of awakening and discovery in Ecce homo as a ‘form of innocence’. Any specifically biblical connotation of the title makes way for a philosophical meditation. The same quiet will return at the conclusion of the piece, but transformed into a mature and universal serenity—a simplicity that can only be achieved through struggle.

Es muss sein(?) borrows its opening emphatic three-note phrase from the last movement of Beethoven’s final string quartet in F, Op 135. Beethoven entitles the movement ‘Der schwergefasste Entschluss’ (the difficult or sober decision), then assigns three notes each to the plaintive question ‘Muss es sein?’ (Must it be?) and the affirmative response ‘Es muss sein! Es muss sein!’ (It must be!). We can’t be certain of Beethoven’s motivations, but his music suggests jubilation. Tsontakis’s Es muss sein(?) is dire—a challenge to the first movement—the exclamation point abandoned, the question mark appropriated. Labyrinthus leads into the confusion and meandering which ensues.

Lacrymosa (Stabat Mater) is a brief respite before the central crisis of Gethsemane: Shards, as martial threats play against the pianist’s glissandi. While the composer’s instruction is to play ‘like crystalline shards of glass’, this is also when we most clearly hear Tsontakis’s ‘breathing’ chords from Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations. The inhaling and exhaling gesture recurs throughout the work.

Perhaps borrowing from Beethoven’s ‘Es muss sein!’, Jesu Joy — Crucifixus opens optimistically, but the affirmations seem to echo into an unyielding sombreness. How permanent can the ecstasy be? Vir dolorum, ‘man of sorrows’, by returning to the piece’s opening innocence not as a beginning but as a resolution, seems to suggest that there are no certainties, no answers. ‘Es muss sein?’ It must be? Understanding that some questions have no answers is not the same thing as knowing that some questions require no answers.

from notes by Grant Hiroshima © 2007

Track-specific metadata
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Details for CDA67564 track 4
Gethsemane: Shards
Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-07-56404
Duration
9'33
Recording date
18 September 2005
Recording venue
Eugene McDermott Concert Hall, Morton H Meyerson Symphony Center, Dallas, USA
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Andrés Villalta
Hyperion usage
  1. Tsontakis: Man of Sorrows; Berg: Piano Sonata; Webern: Variations (CDA67564)
    Disc 1 Track 4
    Release date: July 2007
    Please, someone, buy me …
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