• Tristan Keuris
  • Three Michelangelo Songs (1990)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Composed for the centenary of the 'Gelders Orkest' with the financial support of the Fonds voor de scheppenade Toonkunst. Dedicated to Jard van Nes and the Gelders Orkest

Written for the centenary of the Gelders Orkest

1. O Notte, Dolce Tempo
2. Sulla Morte di Cecchino Bracci
3. Di Morte Certo, Ma Non Già Del'Ora

  • 2(pic)22221002perchpstr(
  • mezzo soprano
  • 16 min
  • Tristan Keuris
  • Michelangelo
  • Italian

Programme Note

In December 1990 a music critic of the Dutch newspaper, "N.R.C. Handelsblad", rewarded me with two well-nigh ecstatic reviews. The first of these concerned my To Brooklyn Bridge, for chorus and 15 instruments; the second covered the Intermezzi, for 9 wind instruments. The conclusion of the latter notice struck me in particular: "Keuris's Intermezzi get smothered rather too soon by the horns, (...) but they certainly amount to very substantial sketches". I was hugely surprised, for how could the man have guessed that these were indeed sketches, notably the first movement and the last one, "smothered rather too soon by the horns"?

The fact of the matter is that from the beginning the plan had been to develop the material employed more fully at a later stage, but I had kept this to myself. While working on the Intermezzi I was already committed to writing a piece for mezzo-soprano and orchestra. Even though the words had not been decided yet, I intended in that work to express melancholy thoughts of farewell.

When I came across the Michelangelo sonnets, I immediately sensed that I could use the aforesaid Intermezzi as the basis for the sonnet, "0 notte, 0 dolce tempo". A type of procedure, which previously had proved very satisfactory when I was involved in the composition of To Brooklyn Bridge (my earliest vocal piece): the musical structure had thus been determined in advance, as it were, and all I had to do was intertwine the vocal line with the partially already existing music, devise a completely different instrumentation and create new interconnecting links.

In my view, one of the pitfalls in setting poetry to music is that the poet forces his rhythms upon the composer. Therefore, during the sketching phase of each fragment I endeavoured initially to write music which seemed most appropriate in terms of atmosphere, and to concern myself only afterwards with the exact placing and timing of the text. In the second song, "Sulla morte di Checchino Bracci", the opening rhythm of the poem actually provided an impulse, but nothing more. Apart from that I have applied the same method.

I felt the last sonnet posed a contradiction between the poet's lament and his somewhat exceptional religious stance. It appeared to me as if he considered himself to be above the poor sinners - in short, as if he no longer cared for the worthless world, and as if he clearly imagined himself saved already. In any case, the overall tenor did not impress me as being entirely sincere. Musically speaking, it greatly attracted me, however, and consequently, I was quite happy to follow the moods contained in the sonnet.
The song cycle is scored for: 2 flutes (1 doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 1 trumpet, percussion, harp and strings.
Tristan Keuris, 1991.