Commissioned by Timothy Walker

Timothy Walker

  • Guitar
  • 11 min

Programme Note

Canto for Guitar was commissioned by Timothy Walker, with funds provided by the Arts Council of Great Britain. The first performance, by the same artist, took place on 26 October 1972 at the Purcell Room, London. Timothy Walker has also recorded the piece for L’Oiseau Lyre (DSLO 3).

The mood and shape of this work were suggested by the first canto of Dante’s Inferno. The poet finds himself in a dark wood, menaced by wild beasts. The ghost of Virgil appears to him, and offers to guide him safely out of the wood, and then to show him hell and purgatory, before handing him over to Beatrice, who will be his guide in heaven.

The plainsong melody used in this piece is part of the second antiphon from the second vespers of the Annunciation. This feast-day (25 March) was thought by Medieval scholars to be the date both of the conception of Jesus and the creation of the world. The words of the antiphon are ‘Ave Maria, gratia plena; Dominus tecum…’

© Giles Swayne