On the Breath of Angels
In the 16th and 17th centuries the vast majority of images of cornetto players are depictions angel musicians, often in the company of angelic voices, viols, violins, trombones, organs and harps. Taking this image as a point of departure, Hana Blaíková and I, following the success of our project “Breathtaking”, have developed and recorded a new program around the pairing of the voice and the cornetto. Once again we explore the wonderful way the voice and cornetto can play off of each other in diverse repertoires from the 17th century to the present day.
We return to further explore a couple of the composers from the Breathtaking program, most notably Sigismondo D’India, Giacomo Carissimi, and Alessandro Scarlatti. But we also venture further afield. In the last few decades, a mysterious manscript from around 1600 turned up on the auction circuit. It contains florid sacred monodies and duets of a variety of composers, but mostly by the compiler himself, signed Carlo G… (The rest of his last name is obscured by a smudge.) The music is fascinating for its elaborate ornamentation and its use of instruments. We will perform pieces for two sopranos, in which the cornetto takes the role of the second soprano, and pieces for soprano and violin, in which the elaborate ornamentation of the violin is played on the cornetto and the violin. Once again we will explore opera arias from the last decade of the 17th century, with music of Scarlatti, but also of Giovanni Bononcini.
We have commissioned two new works for our angels project by Ivan Moody and Julian Wachner. Moody is an English conductor, musicologist, composer and Orthodox priest who lives and works in Lisbon. His many works show the influence of Eastern liturgical chant and the Orthodox Church. He has written highly successful works for groups such as the Hilliard Ensemble, Red Byrd, the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and many others. Julian Wachner is an American composer, conductor and keyboard player. Since 2011 he has been Director of Music and the Arts at Trinity Wall Street Church in New York City. Though he has written in many genres both sacred and secular, much of his early work was liturgical. He has described his music as lying between the "between the Apollonian world of church music and the academy and the Dionysian world of opera and the stage.” Moody has chosen a liturgical text from the Byzantine rite, partially in Greek: O Archangels and Angels. Wachner, on the other hand, has chosen a gruesomely beautiful poem by the early 20th-century anti-war poet, Rupert Brooke, “The Vision of the Archangels”.
We will bridge the two new works with a wonderful chanson (1886) of Eric Satie called Les Anges. Taking literally the words of the chanson which describes “lutes shivering under the fingers of angels to produce the divine harmony”, we have arranged the piano accompaniment for theorbo, confidant of not having brought harm to the composition. The cornetto will reply with elaborate divisions on an angel text of Palestrina, Angelus Domini descendit.