• John Harbison
  • La Primavera di Sottoripa (from "Mottetti di Montale") (1998)

  • Associated Music Publishers Inc (World)

Mottetti di Montale, Book I

  • fl(pic), ob(ca), cl(bcl), hn, hpd, vn, va, vc, db
  • Mezzo Soprano [=Soprano]
  • 15 min
  • Mottetti from “Le Occasioni” by Eugenio Montale

Programme Note

Composer note:

Twenty years after composing Mottetti di Montale for mezzo-soprano and piano (1980), the last installment of its orchestration for chamber ensemble was completed. My interest in this piece has persisted 1) because I like the music, 2) because I am deeply interested in Montale's poetry and have found that the piece serve to interest others as well, and 3) because breaking the 56-minute span into shorter segments and transforming it into a mixed-ensemble format (vocal recitals being nearly extinct) promises more hearings for both the music and the words.

I expect these arrangements to be most performed as individual Libri of four to six songs. But only the entire span can provide the cryptic narrative, the "novel in verse" that Montale described when he published the sequence in 1950 as part of his collection Le Occasioni.

In 1998 came the premiere of Libro I, commissioned by the University of Oregon, entitled La Primavera di Sottoripa. The performers were members of the Third Angle, conducted by the composer, with Janice Felty (who sang the first performance of Mottetti di Montale, with Edward Auer, piano, at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival in 1981).

The arrangements impart an individual color to each section (divisions decided by the composer, not the poet). It was my good fortune to experience the Ligurian surroundings of the poems a decade after I had set them for voice and piano, in time to involve their sights and sounds in the orchestration.

— John Harbison


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