Hyperion Records

Nocturnes
First line:
Si je pourrais avec mes mains brûlantes
composer
2005

Recordings
'Lauridsen: Nocturnes & other choral works' (CDA67580)
Lauridsen: Nocturnes & other choral works
Details
No 1: Sa nuit d'été  Si je pourrais avec mes mains brûlantes
No 2: Soneto de la noche  Cuando yo muera quiero tus manos en mis ojos
author of text
Soneto LXXXIX from Cien Sonetos de Amor

No 3: Sure on this shining night
author of text
from Permit me voyage (1934), The Collected Poems of James Agee (1968)

Nocturnes
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With the Nocturnes (2005) Lauridsen undertook a particularly difficult formal challenge: to compose an integrated choral cycle that was simultaneously a triptych while allowing each of the panels to be performed separately. Displaying the same contrapuntal dexterity and using the same techniques of motivic interrelationship as the Mid-Winter Songs and Les chansons des roses, the Nocturnes are unusual within Lauridsen’s œuvre. Unlike either of the choral cycles featured on his disc, both of which use the work of a single poet, Lauridsen has here anthologized the verse of three twentieth-century poets, each of a different nationality: the German Rainer Maria Rilke, the Chilean Pablo Neruda, and the American James Agee. To ensure unity of conception amid this poetic diversity, the composer has cannily chosen three poems in which there are shared themes: night, romantic love and pantheistic rapture.

In the first of the Nocturnes, Sa nuit d’été, Lauridsen draws again upon the body of Rilke’s French poetry. Unlike the meditative inwardness of Les chansons des roses, however, the mood of Sa nuit d’été, established at once with rich harmonic structures in the piano, is one of sensual abandonment to the beauty of a starry night. (A glance at the composer’s sketches reveals how meticulously he plotted the vertiginous eight-part contrapuntal climax of this ecstatic work.) The second movement is a musical translation of Pablo Neruda’s great love sonnet, Soneto de la noche. While the first and third movements of the Nocturnes have prominent piano parts, Lauridsen emphasizes the intimacy of Neruda’s romantic poem by scoring it for unaccompanied chorus. Here the music is reminiscent of a quietly passionate Chilean folk melody, varied by Lauridsen with great delicacy and unobtrusive skill; the subtle phrase extensions found in this movement could be descendants of those in Scarlatti’s more meditative sonatas. The final panel of this triptych is a heartrendingly lovely interpretation of James Agee’s famous poem Sure on this shining night. In this evocation of the quiet consummation of a summer night—for both the opening and closing movements of the Nocturnes express differing degrees of aestival exultation—the luminous sonorities of the piano surround the intertwining voices with a halo of mellow resonance. Thus the Nocturnes conclude with a pantheistic benediction, brimful with deep emotion, which serves as a fitting conclusion to this midsummer pilgrimage.

from notes by Byron Adams © 2007

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