May Madrigals

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Sunday, May 01, 2011

Spring is here and May has arrived. On this week's show, Kent Tritle features Madrigals and excerpts from the choral and symphonic repertoire. Along with nature’s awakening, this time of year is often associated with new beginnings, love, and new life. Among the many works that reflect those sentiments, Aaron Copland's In the Beginning is a wondrous example.

Based on the opening two chapters of Genesis, In the Beginning tells the story of the earth's creation according the Bible. The work is scored for solo mezzo-soprano and chorus, and opens with the '"story-teller" (mezzo soprano soloist) introducing the opening verse: "In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth". As the story unfolds, describing the earth's creation and the dawning of life, the voices grow in sound, creating a feeling of efflorescence.

In a stunning attempt to appropriately color the text, Copland employs his signature open intervals, as well as rhythmic phrases that fuse into longer sentences. The composer's love for American folk and sacred music is present, often using call and response between the choir and soloist. A remarkable moment occurs near the end when the text speaks of God breathing into man "the breath of life". Copland unites the voices rhythmically, at the top of their ranges, as he once wrote: "...I hoped (the music) would depict the text—'And man became a living soul'—in musical terms."
Also this week: Madrigals by William Byrd and Thomas Morley, choral works by Orff and Purcell, and much more.
Is there a certain choral work that you associate with this particular time of year?


Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes
Gächinger Kantorei
Helmut Rilling

A Little Pretty Bonny Lass, Now is the Month of Maying,The Nightingale, The Organ of Delight,
and Fair Phyllis I Saw Sitting All Alone
The King’s Singers

On a fair morning

The King’s Singer

This sweet and merry month of May
The King’s Singers

All creatures now are merry-minded
King’s Singers

With wreaths of rose and laurel
King’s Singers

My beloved spake

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Waynflete Singers and Winchester Cathedral Choir
David Hill
Winchester, UK

My beloved spake

Gabrielli Consort and Players

In the Beginning
St. Thomas Choir of Men and Boys
Meg Bragle, mezzo soprano

In the Springtime from Carmina Burana
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
Robert Shaw

Comments [2]

Robert Russell from Manhattan

I have always thought that the madrigal Now is the Month of Maying would be a great way to welcome May Day. To hear it this morning with the sparkling diction, flawless intonation, and snapping rhythm of the King’s Singers was a perfect match for the brilliance of the early morning sun, and fulfilled my wish. Adding so many goodies, including Hadley’s My beloved spoke (unknown to me) under David Hill, Orff’s Carmina Burana under Robert Shaw, and the spectacular St. Thomas Men and Boys under John Scott offering Copland’s In the Beginning certainly made for a exciting celebration of the May Day.

May. 01 2011 06:22 PM
Michael Meltzer

I have always thought that the modern counterpart of the madrigal, at least in spirit and purpose, was the barber-shop quartet.
It would be neat to have at least part of one of your programs devoted to this musical expression of mankind's best intentions.

May. 01 2011 02:51 AM

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