Thursday, March 25, 2010

This Sunday (Mar. 28th) we will be singing 2 pieces as part of the pre-Evensong recital at St. James Cathedral (King and Church Streets). Show starts at 4PM and runs about a half hour. Hallie will sing and I'll play theorbo.

The first piece is Canzonetta Spirituale sopra alla nanna by Tarquinio Merula. It has a two note bass line for most of its six or seven minutes, with spiky dissonances in the chords and with the voice part. It's a lullaby (the Italian 'ninna nana' is like the English 'lulla lullaby') I think maybe the rocking bass represents the motion of a cradle or mom's arms. Sch├╝tz uses the same effect in some movements of his Christmas Story. As you can see from the translation below, it's sort of a creepy text and just before the baby nods off you can hear that the Virgin Mary is like any hysterical mom whose baby won't nod off.

The other piece is a 'contrafactum' that puts words of the Virgin Mary to Monteverdi's Lamento d'Arianna. This excerpt from his opera became very famous in his lifetime and was the basis for imitations by all kinds of Italian composers (d'India, Marini and many, many more) as well as Englishmen Nicholas Lanier and Henry Lawes. We've sung the Monteverdi itself as well as the Marini (Lagrime d'Ermina, the heroine from Tasso's Gerusalemme Liberata) and Lanier (The lamenter in his imitation is Hero, who was left on the beach when her Leander was sexually assaulted and drowned by Neptune). In Monteverdi's Selva Morale e Spirituale of 1640, in among the Vespers Psalms are some motets including the Pianto della Madonna sopra il Lamento dell'Arianna. Latin words have been written to the arioso to make a little dramatic scena 'suitable for the chapels or chambers of princes' as Monteverdi describes the motets in his Mass and Vespers of 1610. We usually break up the partite of the Lamento with little improvised passacaglias for a kind of ritornello.

Andrew Ager, the organist at the cathedral, will be playing an arrangement of a Vivaldi concerto for the organ as well.

Here are the translations of the texts:

Plaint of the Madonna
Now I will die my son,
For what mother could find consolation
In such terrible pain, in such cruel suffering?
Now I will die my son.
My son, my Jesus, O Jesus, my spouse,
My spouse, my beloved,
My hope, my life,
Alas, you strike deep into my heart.
Look, Jesus, I beg you,
Look upon a mother,
Look at your mother,
Who, moaning before you, pale, anguished,
In fatal death demands to be joined with you
On that cross so cruel and so monstrous.
My Jesus, O my Jesus,
O powerful man, O God,
Whose breast, alas, endures such suffering
Which tortures Mary herself,
Take pity on the one whose tears are joined to yours:
May she who has lived through you, die with you!
But soon you leave this life, O my son,
And I stay here to weep!
You will confound the infernal enemy with a great victory
And I, abandoned here, a prey to pain, alone and afflicted.
You, nurturing Father, you fount of love, support of the joyful,
I will see you no more.
O, my Father, O my spouse
Here are the promises of the Archangel Gabriel,
Here the high throne of David, our ancient father,
Here the royal crown, the symbol of your majesty
Here the golden sceptre and finally the kingdom,
To be crucified so cruelly on a wooden cross,
To be lacerated by nails and by a crown!
Ah, Jesus, ah, my Jesus!
Sweet death, come to me.
This is what with tears and cries your Mary asks:
For her to die with you is glory and life.
Alas, son, you reply not.
Alas, you are deaf to my moaning and lamentation.
O death, O sin, O hell, behold,
My spouse is quickly drowned in the waves.
O earth, open up your depths, and with my beloved,
Hide me as well.
What can I say?
Alas, what can I hope for in my wretchedness?
Alas, what can I seek?
O, Jesus, O, my Jesus, it is not what I want,
But let it be done according to your wishes.
Let my sad heart, full of suffering, live.
Graze, my son, on the love of your mother.

Canzonetta Spirituale sopra alla nanna.
The time is now come to sleep,
Sleep, sleep my son and do not cry,
For the time will yet come
When you will have to cry.
So my dear, so my heart
Go to sleep.
Shut those divine eyes
As other children do,
For soon a thick veil
Will deprive the sky of light.
Go to sleep,
Or take this milk
From my unsullied breasts,
For a cruel minister
Prepares for you vinegar and gall.
So my dear, so my heart
Go to sleep.
My love, let this soft breast
Be a soft bed for you
Before, on the cross
In a loud voice, you give your soul to your father.
So my dear, so my heart
Go to sleep.
Stretch out, then those sweet little limbs.
So sweet and so tender,
For later irons and chains
Will inflict cruel pains on them.
So my dear, so my heart
Go to sleep.
Those hands and those feet
Which you now look on with pleasure and joy,
Alas, in what a way will sharp nails
pass through them.
That gracious face,
Today redder than a rose,
Will be fouled with spit and blows
In torment and pain.
O what pain, only hope of my heart,
Will be caused by sharp thorns,
Which will wound your head and hair.
Ah, in this divine breast,
my love sweet and tender,
An ungodly and treacherous lance
Will inflict a mortal wound.
Sleep then my son,
Sleep you who is also my redeemer.
Because with happy faces
We shall see each other in Paradise.
Now that my life is sleeping,
He who is all the joy of my heart,
Let each, through pure zeal, be silent.
And I, during this time, what will I do?
I will contemplate my dear,
And I will stay with my head bowed
While my child sleeps.

The photo above is by Alexandra Guerson.

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