• Peter Maxwell Davies
  • Linguae Ignis (Tongues of Fire) (2002)
    ('for Pentecost')

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Written for Contempoartensemble, to celebrate its 10th anniversary

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  • Cello
  • 12 min

Programme Note

Linguae Ignis was written at Christmas and New Year for Mauro Ceccanti and his family, as a mark of respect and affection after many years of collaboration.

It is an offshoot of a Pentecostal Mass I am in the process of writing for Westminster Cathedral, London, using the same two plainsongs proper to Whitsun, ‘Dum Complerentur Dies Pentecostes’ and ‘Veni Creator Spiritus’. It is subtitled ‘Instrumental Motet’, and has a contemplative inward character, despite some very fast speeds, and its obvious association with the tongues of fire, glossalalia, and transformation into ecstatic states under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

The scoring is for solo ‘cello with twelve accompanying instruments. (I chose the ‘cello remembering Vittorio Cecannti’s excellent performances of my Vesalii Icones). All the players are subjected to the highest demands on their virtuosity and musicianship.

The main musical argument concerns systematic sequences of transformation of melodic countour, effected isometrically, whereby the plainsong ‘Dum Complerentur’ slowly turns into ‘Veni Creator’. We start with an adagio, where the solo ‘cello plainly states the ‘Dum Complerentur’, which leads into an allegro with more than an echo of sonata procedures. The climax is a sequence of recitatives, finishing with ‘Veni Creator’, in high harmonics, quietly spelt out by the soloist, accompanied by the marimba in its lowest register.©Peter Maxwell Davies