Unlikely Pairing Turns to Intense Affinity at Carnegie

The pianist Daniil Trifonov and the baritone Matthias Goerne performing at Carnegie Hall (2018)

 

[…]  “And in a stunning contrast, Wolf’s ultra-melodious treatments of somewhat static reflections by Michelangelo gave way immediately to Shostakovich’s more angular renderings of that Renaissance genius’s more politically charged defense of Dante, and his praise of sleep, oblivion and death in the face of vice and criminality. These songs carry the listener almost to the realm of, say, Mussorgsky’s “Songs and Dances of Death,” which Shostakovich orchestrated.” […]    –James R. Oestreich, The New York Times,  February 7, 2018

Smetana, Sibelius, and the Dante Quartet

smetana-sibelius-and-the-dante-quartet“Though both Jean Sibelius and Bedrich Smetana are well-known for their contributions to the nationalistic movements in their respective countries, the semi-autobiographical quartets of both composers (two for Smetana, one for Sibelius) instead focus on dark, tragic aspects of their own lives. Smetana’s quartets highlight some of the positive events in his life, but are more a representation of the gradual march toward deafness and the decline of his career. Sibelius, who struggled with depression and isolation, writes an equally revealing depiction of his more private inner turmoil. Performing these three emotionally charged works is the equally emotive, demonstrative Dante Quartet. Conceptually, its playing is ideal for showing listeners the very raw emotions present in these scores.” [. . .]    –Mike D. Brownell, Allmusic

At Midnight with Andrew Kennedy and the Dante Quartet

ian-venables-at-midnight-songs-and-chamber-music“British composer Ian Venables, born in 1955, has been described as a songwriter in the tradition of Hubert Parry, Roger Quilter, Peter Warlock, and Gerald Finzi, and the comparison is apt. They were composers of modest talents, active generations before Venables; Parry, the earliest, died in 1918, and Finzi, the latest, in 1956. Venables’ music has much in common with the conservative English pastoralism that tended to characterize their work, and an informed listener unaware of the provenance of the music recorded here might reasonably place it early in the 20th century. It is skillfully written, and Venables has clearly invested it with deep feeling, so it should appeal to fans of post-Romantic English music.” [. . .]    —AllMusic

Boris Tischenko: Dante Symphony No. 4

boris-tischenkos-dante-symphony-no-4“The musical style and composing manner of Boris Tishchenko (1939 – 2010) shows him to be a typical representative of the Leningrad composers’ school. He was very much influenced by music of his teachers Dmitri Shostakovich and Galina Ustvolskaya, turning these influences in his own way. He tried to use some experimental and modernist ideas like twelve-tone or aleatoric techniques, but was much more attached to the native traditions of his homeland. He was honored by Shostakovich’s orchestration of his First Cello Concerto, and repaid his master by the orchestration, editing and transcription of a few scores by Shostakovich.”    —Avaxhome

Tchaikovsky’s Francesca da Rimini, San Francisco Ballet (2012-2013)

FrancescaSFBallet

During their 2012 and 2013 seasons, San Francisco Ballet choreographed a ballet to Tchaikovsky’s Francesca da Rimini, a symphonic poem setting to music the tragic story of the adulterous lover the pilgrim meets in Inferno V. Possokhov’s choreography also incorporates elements from Rodin’s sculptural groups inspired by Dante’s Comedy.

From the program notes: “The story of Francesca da Rimini, immortalized in Dante Alighieri’s epic poem The Divine Comedy, has a long and varied pedigree in the art world. The snippet of history has
made its way from literature to opera to symphonic fantasia to ballet—and now to San Francisco Ballet, in the creative hands of Choreographer in Residence Yuri Possokhov. For someone like Possokhov, with a tendency to lean toward the dramatic, who better than Dante for the story, or Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the composer of so many beloved ballets, for the music? Tchaikovsky’s Francesca da Rimini, a 25-minute symphonic poem, attracted Possokhov years ago. He describes it as the most romantic music in history, with an ending ‘like an apocalypse.'”    —SF Ballet

Contributed by Elizabeth Coggeshall

Charles Wuorinen, “The Dante Trilogy” (1993-1996)

charles-wuorinen-the-dante-trilogy-1993-1996
“In his long composing life, Charles Wuorinen has drawn on an extremely wide range of intellectual and musical inspirations, including many from science and literature. The Dante Trilogy is among his most ambitious compositions, its source one of the great works of the Western intellectual canon. The three ballets each correspond to one of the books of Dante’s Divina Commedia: The Mission of Virgil to Inferno, The Great Procession to Purgatorio, and The River of Light to Paradiso; although rather than attempting to mirror the whole of Dante’s narrative, Wuorinen’s music relates to the detail and atmosphere of the books.”    —Naxos

Roger Marsh, “Il Cor Tristo” (2008)

roger-marsh-il-cor-tristo-2008“In 1996-98 I was the producer for an audio-book version of Dante’s Divine Comedy, in a new English translation by Benedict Flynn. The reader was Heathcote Williams, and when we came to record Canto 33 of Inferno, I found myself transported by the power and emotion of his reading. It occurred to me that afternoon, that one day I would like to make a musical setting of these verses.
The opportunity to realise this project came last year, when the Hilliard Ensemble invited me to compose something for them, and this was the project I proposed to them. Ugolino’s monologue in Canto 33 is remarkable within the context of the Divine Comedy, in that it is the only time we are given a full account of a personal story: elsewhere we are given snippets or allusions, but Dante does not make time to re-iterate tales he believes we should know already. In this case, the scenario clearly took hold of his imagination: a traitor imprisoned with his entire family, and eventually condemned to starve to death together in their sealed tower. Dante has Ugolino tell his own story simply, calmly and in pathetic detail.
I have begun the drama as Dante first encounters the frozen lake which lies at the bottom of the pit of Hell, cutting a few lines from time to time en route to Ugolino’s story, which I have set complete. My primary concern has been to keep Dante’s words clear at all times, and thus you will find in this ‘contemporary’ music many devices more usually encountered in music of much earlier times.I hope that I have been able to do this without wasting the incredible talents of the Hilliard Ensemble. The challenge for them is less in the notes they have to sing, than in the large number of words which I ask them to enunciate with expression, but also with maximum clarity. And that is my suggestion to you: that you do not close your eyes and let the sound of the music drift over you, but that you accompany Dante on this section of his journey, line by line.”    –Roger Marsh, 2008

The Hilliard Ensemble’s recording
Hear a clip here

As the Poets Affirm

as-the-poets-affirm.jpg “As The Poets Affirm (As The Poets Affirm) was born out of a group of independent musicians in 2001 in Ottawa, Canada. What started as a three-piece acoustic project, eventually turned into an eclectic seven-member lineup experimenting with jazz, classical and electronica. Their name is taken from a line in Dante’s Inferno [Inf. XXIX.63].” [. . .]    —The Sirens Sound

Professor Fate, “Inferno” (2007)

professor-fate-inferno-2007“Professor Fate is a solo project from Mick Kenney (Anaal Nathrakh/Exploder/Mistress) Professor Fate produce cinematic style music, a form of epic classical that fuses intertwined drumbeats with orchestral Rock and electronic sounds. The music screams “soundtrack” in its every audible moment, with grand, sweeping soundscapes that inspire cinematic imagery even in the dark. ‘Inferno’ presents you with a powerfully potent journey through the caverns of the underworld, inspired by Dante Alighieri’s book, ‘The Divine Comedy.'”    —CD Universe

Franz Liszt, “Dante Symphony” (1847-57)

franz-liszt-dante-symphony-1847-1857The Dante Symphony, by Franz Liszt, was written in two movements: Inferno, and Purgatorio – Magnificat. Liszt was told that he shouldn’t attempt to write a movement for Paradiso, as this was a hopeless venture. Nobody can put true heaven into a song.”    –Kevin Williams, January 26, 2008

Contributed by Kevin Williams (Luther College, ’11)