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Judith Weir - Three Chorales for Cello and Piano

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Published on Apr 12, 2017

Three Chorals by Judith Weir, commissioned by cellist Jonathan Miller
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In 2014 Judith Weir was named Master of the Queen's Music, the first woman to hold this appointment, one of the most eminent in British music. While Three Chorales draws upon images from religious poetry, Weir has described the work's three movements as "personal, secular, musical." British critic Andrew Clements has characterized Weir's music as having a "knack of making simple musical ideas appear freshly mysterious." The composer's descriptions of the three movements' musical resources illuminate that characterization:

The first movement, Angels bending near the earth, was inspired by a carol from the Massachusetts pastor and poet, Edmund Sears. The music features "piano arpeggios swooping down over the rich central band of sound produced by the cello";

In Death's dark vale, the second movement's title, briefly paraphrases a Scottish hymn setting of Psalm 23. In death's dark vale has the piano creating an evolving chordal backdrop for the cello's hasty, self-absorbed continuo. The image here is of human life lived against the prospect of impending death";

The last movement, O sapienta, is the only one directly quoting an original work, a hymn by Hildegard of Bingen, the extraordinary 12th century German composer, writer and mystic. It's a calm, elegiac set of variations on Hildegard's melody, accompanied by mostly bright, optimistic reflections from the piano" comprises the core of O sapienta. This means O, Power of Wisdom.s the piano creating an evolving chordal backdrop for the cello's "hasty, self-absorbed continuo. The image here is of human life lived against the prospect of impending death";

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