Program Note from the composer:
Rarely, if ever, does a new work originate in a single, spontaneous impulse. Of the many which contributed to the genesis of “Tre madrigali concertati” I should mention in particular the brief though intensive study of the Italian madrigal which I undertook while a student in a seminar conducted by Edward Lowinsky at Queens College in 1955, the understanding of Italian—limited though it is—which I acquired while living in Rome during a sabbatical leave of absence in 1973, my growing love and admiration for the work of such Italian masters as Monteverde and Verdi, and, finally, the invitation extended to me by an accomplished and enterprising student-singer to compose a work for the undergraduate chamber ensemble class at Queens.
In choosing to set texts by Petrarch and Ariosto I not only continued a tradition established by the most eloquent practitioners of the Italian madrigal but I also discovered why they found these texts such a sure source for their inspiration. I realized as never before that, much as a sculptor strives to release the figure he imagines imprisoned in the stone, I had merely to recite this poetry aloud to hear the music already contained within it.
The tonal language of “Tre madrigali concertati” is as much a part of our time as Marenzio’s or de Rore’s was of theirs in sixteenth century Italy. Although it is at times reserved and secure in tempo, it is more likely to be passionate and declamatory. All of the parts have distinctive roles to play with respect to each other. The voice always portrays the principal role even when it is absent. Although secondary, the cello’s role is that of a concerned and frequently active participant, readily moved by the emotions expressed by the voice. The role of the harpsichord is that of a not-altogether-detached commentator who nevertheless follows the discussions sympathetically and often elaborately in a quasi-improvisatory manner. Although the three settings can be performed individually with varying degrees of effectiveness, when performed together, they behave toward one another much as three one-act plays do when performed on the same evening.
Tre madrigali concertati
1. Ahi, dispietata morte!
2. Come la notte ogni fiamella
3. Or che’l ciel
(Allen Brings and Gary Snyder)