Hyperion Records

Legend of the walled-in woman
The winning entry in the Young Composers category of the 2006 International Rostrum for Composers Competition, Legend of the walled-in woman memorializes an Albanian woman and a kind of (involuntary) sacrifice for the greater good, in this case the rather less earth-shattering matter of the survival of a castle in northern Albania which was built by three brothers to protect themselves from Roman and Greek invaders. According to the legend, their mother had a dream that, in order to prevent the castle from being mysteriously destroyed every night, one of them would have to offer his wife as a sacrifice. Two brothers warned their wives about the dream but the third did not; the next day she set off for the castle to bring them food, and there she was immured inside the foundations.

Like Passion and Resurrection, the work begins with an objet trouvé—in this case an Albanian folksong that is the source of the legend. Again, with its strange ululations and glissandi, its ornamentation and keening repetitions, the folksong is immediately established as an alien musical presence. Similarly, the story is told not as a straightforward narrative, but through ellipsis; the piece is not dramatic but contemplative. Its structure is simple: three times material from the original folksong (sung by a solo quintet at a distance) is followed by a setting of the same words for the full choir. The texture is characteristically sonorous, with multiple divisi; the harmony is tonal, invigorated by passing dissonances, the tessitura wide, as intertwined upper voices soar above more slow-moving deeply rooted lower parts. In an extended coda polyphony dissolves into homophony: tolling, incantatory chords create a static pulsation that underscores plaintive wisps of melody from one, then two solo sopranos, who intone (in English) an epitaph for the walled-in woman. Gradually tendrils of folksong are re-woven into the texture, their tonality finally reconciled with that of the choir, as the music recedes into silence.

from notes by Gabriel Jackson © 2011

Track-specific metadata
Details for CDA67796 track 8
Recording date
13 April 2010
Recording venue
All Hallows, Gospel Oak, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Adrian Peacock
Recording engineer
David Hinitt
Hyperion usage
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