Melly of Troy

Heading upstate today with George Steel’s Vox Ensemble to perform the Tallis Spem in Allium and the Ligeti Lux Aeterna, both amazing pieces of choral lit. Joining us on the program will be the Albany Symphony and ICE, including Mafoo to open the new Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at RPI. Apparently the hall is suspended or something…

I’m just psyched to perform these two pieces. I’ve performed the Tallis before, and for those of you that don’t know it, or have never experienced it live, it’s a 40 part motet. 8 choirs of SATBB, and is traditionally performed in the round for maximum effect. It’s chock full of your typical Tudor show stopper moments, imitation and false relations (which make me hot all over)… how does one write 40 independent lines of counterpoint?? God, I don’t know… but he does it, simply and slowly, beginning choir by choir sometimes with two voices in duet, moving from choir to choir and then back around, some antiphonal stuff from side to side, and then finally at measure 40 (and I’ll talk about the numbers cuz I’m really nerdy like that) ALL 40 voices enter, and it’s HOT.

Finally, the Ligeti. Damn. My first experience with this piece. 16 lines, again one on a part, which is near impossible with the staggered phrasing…. I’m quite skeptical of sacred text settings done by contemporary composers, mainly because the text stress and rhetoric are often lost for the sake of extended technique and all that jazz. Not knowing much about Ligeti, this sort of pointillistic approach to the text was jarring at first, but he contrasts the shorter sections with sustained suspended chords that keep the overall textual ideas moving. The piece is essentially a canon, with each of the parts moving with a different microbeat, 6,5,4,3, a soundsplash of chromaticism interspersed with real sexy consonants. The result is that someone always makes it to the end first, and has to wait for the others to catch up. That moment of moving from the dissonance to the sonority of the unison pitch gets me every time. It’s truly amazing stuff.

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