MONTEVERDI RESPONSORIES

For saxophone quartet and choir

The idea for creating Monteverdi Responsories was conceived in response to Claudio Monteverdi’s Piagn’e Sospira from the Fourth Book of Madrigals. Monteverdi’s text comes from an excerpt of Torquato Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered, and describes a lover who ‘cries and sighs’ (piagn’e sospira) as she carves on the bark of a tree a beloved name ‘in a thousand fashions’ (segno l’amato nome in mille guise). Monteverdi’s setting of piagn’e sospira is one of the most captivating moments in madrigal literature. It consists of two gestures, forming a metaphorical musical sigh: an ascending chromatic line on ‘cried’ (piagn’e), balanced by a descending leap on ‘sighed’ (sospira). The outer tones of the second gesture engulf the tones of the first gesture, while the latter fill in every chromatic step in-between the outer tones of the second gesture. This extraordinarily powerful yet disarmingly simple musical material is recast ‘in a thousand fashions’ in Monteverdi Responsories, which is to be performed immediately after ‘Piagn’e Sospira’ without pause. Monteverdi’s original material is decontextualized and its pertinent qualities become malleable: the distorted sospiro gesture that initiates the piece is a characteristic example of such recasting.. The text of Monteverdi Responsories is a poem by 20th century Greek poet Yiannis Ritsos from the collection Mikre Suita se Kokkino Meizon (Little Suite in Red Major).