Sciarrino: Le voci sottovetro | Abrahamsen: Liebeslied

Program Note

Salvatore Sciarrino (b.1947)
Le voci sottovetro “Voices under glass” (1998)

Italian composer Salvatore Sciarrino began his life of creativity as a visual artist. Starting as a figurative painter, Sciarrino developed a fascination for abstraction. Further, he found that music allowed him an appropriately challenging way to outlet his innate desire for artistic experimentation. It did not take long for Sciarrino, an autodidact, to establish one of the most distinctive styles of his generation and consequently become a fixture in the world of contemporary classical composition. He was driven by a self-proclaimed obligation to accomplish a “flight towards the new,” rather than maintain a grip on what once was. Once his career as a composer was stable, Sciarrino withdrew to the mountainous Italian town of Cittá di Castello in order to dedicate himself solely to his work. In his words, he “left the metropolises and sought the shadows.” Sciarrino’s quest for introspective solemnity is often mimicked in his compositions, as silence takes an important role in his works. He asserted that “there is one thing without which no delight in sound makes sense, and that is the intensity of silence. The tension and the thoughts of the person who listens are made perceptible by the person who plays.”

Sciarrino’s music-theatre piece Luci mie traditrici (Oh my deceitful eyes) was originally based upon the colourful life of the composer Carlo Gesualdo, but when he discovered that Alfred Schnittke was also busy composing an opera on the same subject, Sciarrino changed track and eliminated all references to the great madrigalist in his final score. Yet the fascination with Gesualdo’s music remained, and the spin-off was a series of instrumental transcriptions that he grouped together in 1998 as Le voci sottovetro (Voices under glass).

—Andrew Clements

Hans Abrahamsen (b.1952)
Liebeslied (2010)—North American premiere

Hans Abrahamsen studied theory at the Royal Danish Academy of Music, where he explored ideas of the New Simplicity movement, a reaction to the complex serialism championed as the pinnacle of modernism by the Darmstadt School in central Europe. His style evolved over the course of the ’70s and ’80s, spurred first by a fascination with minimalists Terry Riley and Steve Reich and, later, under the tutelage of Györgi Ligeti. The composer describes his own body of work “as one long music,” connected musically and thematically.

During preparations for their 25th anniversary in 2010, Ensemble Recherche came to the conclusion that “there are no love songs anymore!” so they requested such pieces for the celebration from various composer friends. The response from the invited composers was very strong: more than 30 love songs were written in the process and more are in progress. One could almost speak of a new “trend”. Abrahamsen wrote Liebeslied for this collection.

—Josh Davidoff (ed.Fiona Boyd)