Performing this Week
The Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival
Summer 2009 — Week 11
Week 11 of the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival radio series begins and ends with two pastoral pieces: Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco's Eclogues, Op. 206 for guitar, flute, and English horn, and Antonín Dvořák's Wind Serenade in D Minor, Op. 44. In the middle we have a rather intense religious "happening," the American premiere of Thierry Lancino's ONXA, a work scored for mezzo-soprano and ensemble in which the composer employs an invented language to convey work's powerful theme.
Please scroll down to find excerpts from Kerry Frumkin and Marc Neikrug's conversation about this week's program, the text and more information about ONXA (pronounced "OHN-sha"), comments from the artists, and as always, a few other things I found along the way.
Thanks for stopping by...
Eclogues, Op. 206
Simon Wynberg, guitar
ONXA (U.S. Premiere)
Monica Groop, mezzo-soprano; Ronald Thomas, solo cello; L.P. How and Kathleen Brauer, violins; Teng Li, viola; Mark Brandfonbrenner, cello; Marji Danilow, bass; Kathleen McIntosh, harpsichord
Lon syd u phow ej dolaw syrf u ens.
Zye seef scendyrl dqu u sil
Ma u fon bryrl u xtal.
Swilyerl u paj ej wynyerl u gaj.
U faj feetj onxarl u win
Ej u sil fuscyrl ic bhaqh.
U cril txajlyd, ej tojk sawndyd in aers.
Long is the road and painful will be the return.
His knife rose towards the sky
But the voice broke the steel.
The child smiled and the man shed tears.
The kneeling woman, looked at the light, astonished
And the sky grew dark with rain.
The scream burst forth and, forever resonates in the air.
ONXA is scored for mezzo-soprano, cello, string quartet, and double bass. It is conceived to be followed without pause by a quotation of the Pie Jesu from Duruflé's Requiem.
ONXA is a personal interpretation of the biblical episode (Genesis 22) in which Abraham, in order to prove his faith, is asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac. He loads the wood for the burnt offering onto his son's back and takes him up to the mountain. His hand, armed with a knife, is held back at the last moment by an angel, thus avoiding the slaughter. For his unquestioning submission and his fear of God, Abraham is rewarded by the promise of uncounted descendants. The event is recalled in the Offertory, a part of the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Mass.
In ONXA, things are a bit more ambiguous. A mysterious scream triggers the suspension of the sacrifice. Is this intervention divine or human? By God or by Sarah, Isaac's mother? ONXA ends with the long echo of this scream, and with a feeling of hesitation. The echo lasts for 2000 years, and, in a powerful ellipsis, that hesitation resolves at the foot of the cross. Christ, who also carried the wood for his sacrifice, suffers his death and thus fulfills his destiny initiated 2000 years before. The echo of the original scream metamorphoses into the powerless sorrow of Mary—the mother—and leads us into the Pie Jesu by Duruflé. The scream can still be heard…the sorrow still felt.
I originally did not want any actual words to be sung—preferring wordless vocalization. But very soon I felt the need for articulation and for consonants. In order to observe my desire to remain timeless and universal, and after experimenting with a few exotic languages, I decided to use an unfamiliar, invented language, Silarg. I wrote the somewhat enigmatic text in French and had it translated into Silarg by its inventor, Jean Pierre Mallaroni. Silarg has the quality of an ancient language as well as a futuristic one—offering beautiful sound colors and consonants and echoing many of the ancient languages I had considered.
The moment depicted in ONXA—as short as a flash of lightning—captured my imagination. I was fascinated by this gesture, interrupted a fraction of a second before the knife touched the throat, and finally accomplished two millennia later. Time needed to be suspended and stretched—quite a challenge for a composer. This is the core idea of my work.
ONXA(Silarg for "look of astonishment") was commissioned by the organization Que l'Esprit Vive, whose only requirement was that I write a piece that would have some connection to the offering.
You can find Thierry Lancino's bio here
More about mezzo-soprano Monica Groop can be found at monicagroop.com
Serenade in D Minor, Op. 44
Guillermo Figueroa, conductor; Liang Wang and Kevin Vigneau, oboes; Michael Rusinek and Lott Levy, clarinets; Nancy Goeres and Theodore Soluri, bassoons; Ron Noble, contrabassoon; Eric Rusk, William Barnewitz and Julie Landsman, horns; Andrew Janss, cello; Marji Danilow, bass
Guillermo tells producer Louise Frank, "there has to be a unified approach, and with 14 people that the group has there probably is not enough time to accommodate everybody's ideal, and I think that's where I step in."
"Sometimes non-verbal communication happens, not only within the group but sometimes outside of the group," says Michael Rusinek, Principal Clarinet of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Here Michael recounts some behind-the-scenes communication that took place during this performance!