On the Breath of Angels

Cuenca angel.jpg

In the 16th and 17th centuries the vast majority of images of cornetto players are depictions angel musicians, often in the company of angelic voices, viols, violins, trombones, organs and harps. Taking this image as a point of departure, Hana Blažíková and I, following the success of our project “Breathtaking”, have developed a new program around the pairing of the voice and the cornetto. Once again we will explore the wonderful way the voice and cornetto can play off of each other in diverse repertoires from the 17th century to the present day.

We will return to further explore a couple of the composers from the Breathtaking program, most notably Sigismondo D’India, Giacomo Carissimi, and Alessandro Scarlatti. But we will also go further afield. In the last few decades, a mysterious manscript from around 1600 turned up on the auction circuit. It contains florid sacred monodies and duets of a variety of composers, but mostly by the compiler himself, signed Carlo G… (The rest of his last name is obscured by a smudge.) The music is fascinating for its elaborate ornamentation and its use of instruments. We will perform pieces for two sopranos, in which the cornetto takes the role of the second soprano, and pieces for soprano and violin, in which the elaborate ornamentation of the violin is played on the cornetto. Once again we will explore opera arias from the last decade of the 17th century, with music of Scarlatti, but also Antonio Draghi and Antonio Maria Bononcini.

We have commissioned two new works for our angels project by Ivan Moody and Julian Wachner. Moody is an English conductor, musicologist, composer and Orthodox priest who lives and works in Lisbon. His many works show the influence of Eastern liturgical chant and the Orthodox Church. He has written highly successful works for groups such as the Hilliard Ensemble, Red Byrd, the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and many others. Julian Wachner is an American composer, conductor and keyboard player. Since 2011 he has been Director of Music and the Arts at Trinity Wall Street Church in New York City. Though he has written in many genres both sacred and secular, much of his early work was liturgical. He has described his music as lying between the "between the Apollonian world of church music and the academy and the Dionysian world of opera and the stage.” These composers will explore both the instrumental-vocal duality and the theme of angels in its broadest sense.

We will bridge the two new works with a wonderful chanson (1886) of Eric Satie called Les Anges. Taking literally the words of the chanson which describes “lutes shivering under the fingers of angels to produce the divine harmony”, we have arranged the piano accompaniment for lute, confidant of not having brought harm to the composition. The cornetto will reply with elaborate divisions on motets with angel texts of Orlando di Lasso. It will be a truly celestial program.

The launch of the program will be in March 2020 with the recording of a new CD. Concerts will follow, in particular a North American tour in October 2020.