• Judith Weir
  • Sederunt Principes (1987)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)
  • 11211110perchp.pfstr(min 3.0.2.1.1)
  • 10 min

Programme Note

To a modern ear, the material of Perotin's monumental 4-part motet Sederunt Principes might seem unvarying, based on a small number of rhythmic and melodic possibilities; it is usually the work's majestic proportions that initially strike the listener . After a more thorough immersion however, such events and changes in the music as there are assume enormous significance; and my recomposition of the piece for 18 instruments reflects a sense of exaggerated interest in the music's small-scale developments.

Amongst the incidents magnified in my version are: the appearance of the plainsong chant about a third of the way through (heard forthrightly on trombone); the way the music restarts after this, in a slightly different mode (begun dryly on xylophone); the increasingly homophonic nature of some phrases (an interplay of small 'choirs' of instruments); the intensification of counterpoint just before the end (the ensemble used almost tutti); and after this explosion, the final reflective plainsong (the bassoon's only entry).

To add to the sense of intensification, my impressions of the original piece have been speeded up: my version lasts just under 10 minutes. It was written for a festival at the South Bank Centre bringing together medieval music and contemporary composers, devised by Harrison Birtwistle and Bayan Northcott., to whom I remain grateful for suggesting this project to me. The first performance was given by the Endymion Ensemble conducted by Rupert Bawden in 1987.
© Judith Weir