Oratoria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

for chorus, brass quintet, percussion, soprano and baritone

commissioned by The McKnight Foundation and St. Mary’s University Department of Music

Oratoria is a setting of seven poems by six Baroque poets.   I found the different perspectives of these poems  with  German,  French,  Polish, English,  Spanish and Dutch authors, intriguing,   particularly  since these regions  and cultures were at war for thirty years  in a conflict whose cause was a complex mixture of religious views and power struggles.   I consider this piece a secular “oratorio” with implied lessons rising from the poetic prose that warn about the ravages of war, the importance of honor,  the false lures of the material world, the certainty of death,  the power of virtue in a temporal world, the urgency of loving, and the  persistent march of time-all valid lessons for  our current troubled world.    My treatment of these settings  also reference  their 16th and 17th century origins but  the harmonic and rhythmic elements of my style propels them well into the 21st century. 

Audio from the premiere

Premiere performance by St. Mary’s University Chamber Singers conducted by Patrick O’Shea

Ann Elise Schoenecker, soprano and Gary Moss, baritone.

The Change of Human Things

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On Precious Stones

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Honor the Basis of All

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Vertue

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On War

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Ah Dearest Let Us Haste Us

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The Clockmaker

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Purchase Score

 

 

Texts:

 

The Change of Human Things  (Quirinus Kuhlmann)

 

On night, fog, fight,

Frost, wind, sea, heat, south, east, west,

North, sun, fire, ill deed,

Come day, shine, blood, snow,

Calm, land, bolt, warmth, heat, joy,

Cold,  light blaze, and dread.

To wound, rack, shame, fear,

War, groan, cross, strife, scorn,

Ache, gripe, trick, mocking prod

Will joy, grace, rank ,balm,

Palm, wit, use, peace, praise, jest,

Rest, cheer, luck succeed

 

Chamois, moon, spark, smoke, fish,

Gold, pearl, tree, flame, stork,

Frog, lamb, ox, craw’s need

Love peak, light, straw,

Steam, flood, glow, foam, fruit, ash,

Roof, pond, field, pasture, bread:

All is changing, all is loving; all things seem some things to hate: He must human wisdom fathom, who this but would contemplate.

 

On Precious Stones  (Laurent Drelincourt)

What’s this?  So many fires, and rays, and light

From such a cold, rude darksome element?

And such Stars in these somber quarries born

To make of Earth a second Firmament?

Exploding minerals, terrestrial Lamps,

Magnificently shining on kings’ heads,

I can regard you naught but vulgar things,

Your flashing for me tins’lly ornaments.

Invisible  Sun, the Earth’s creator,

Descend into my heart and by your power

Bring forth the heav’nly gems of Hope and Faith.

But one day, ceasing to believe and hope

May I receive and share with you in Heaven

The priceless Crown of rays your Glory beams.

 

 

Honor The Basis of All (Daniel Naborowski)

 

‘Tis naught,                                                                                  you’ve raised a palace at great cost:

‘Tis naught,                                                                                  your dining table is renowned;

‘Tis naught,                                                                                  you’ve gold and silver piled in heaps;

‘Tis naught,                                                                                  your wife is fair and of good stock;

‘Tis naught,                                                                                  grandchildren crowd you on all sides ;

‘Tis naught,                                                                                         lands are rich and holdings vast;

‘Tis naught,                                                                                         you’ve servants by the droves on call;

‘Tis naught,                                                                                         your wit is keen and without peer;

‘Tis naught,                                                                                         you’re liked by everyone you meet;

‘Tis naught,                                                                                         your fortune keeps a steady course;

‘Tis naught,                                                                                         an abbot,prior  you become;

‘Tis naught,                                                                                         you wear the crown of king or pope;

‘Tis naught,                                                                                          Good Fortune raised you over Troy;

‘Tis naught,                                                                                         you rule a thousand years in peace;

For all honor and the glory that it brings

Which live forever, have eternal fame.

Who lives with honor has enough, though

Who dies without  it-naught, though he have  all,

 

Vertue  (George Herbert)

Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright,

The bridall of the earth and skie:

The dew shall weep thy fall to night;

For thou must die.

Sweet Rose, whose hue angrie and brave

Bids the rash gazer wipe his eye:

Thy root is ever in its grave,

And thou must die.

Sweet  spring, full of sweet dayes and roses,

A box where perfumes compacted lie;

My musick shows ye have your cadences,

And all must die.

Onely  a sweet and  vertuous soul,

Like season’d timber, never gives;

But though the whole world turn to coal,

Eternally lives.

On War

Fields desolated, frenzy, pillage, blood;

Bereavement, solitude, fears, plaints, griefs, tears;

Towns set afire and cities laid to waste;
From you my canvas takes its forms and shades.

Laws sacred, desecrated cowardly,

Express our woes by your unworthy fate;

And you, sweet virtues, sadly exiled hence,

For ink to write our struggles use your tears.

Just God, You show Your justice in our plagues.

You mould our anguish from our own designs,

And take revenge on us by our own hands.

How Easily You Slip Between My Hands!  (Francisco de Quevedo)

How easily you slip between my hands!

Oh how you slide away, years of my life!

What silent steps you take, oh frigid death,

When with hus’d tread you equalize all things.

Fiercely you scale the weak wall of the earth

In which our vigorous youthhood puts its trust;

My heart already waits the final day,

When you appear in flight with wings unseen.

Oh mortal state! Oh man’s unyilding fate!

To live tomorrow I can have no hope

Without the cost of buying my own death!

Each single instant of man’s life on earth

Is a new summons warning me to heed

How fragile, miserable, and vain it is.

Ah Dearest, Let Us Haste Us  (Martin Opitz)

An Dearest, let us haste us,

While we have time;

Delaying doth but waste us

And lose our prime.

The gifts that beauty nourish

Fly with the year,

And everything we cherish

Must disappear.

The cheeks so fair turn pallid,

And grey the hair,

The flashing eyes turn gelid,

And ice, desire.

From coral lips must flee then

The outrline bold;

The snowy hands decay then,

And thou   art old.

So therefore let us swallow

Youth’s precioius fruit,

E’er we are forc’d to follow

The years in flight.

As thou theyself then lovest,

Love also me:

Give me, that when thou givest

I lose to thee.

 

The Clockmaker That Man Prepare Himself  (While There Is Time  (Jan Luyken)

O Man, set straight your soul’s abode

While life’s clock ticks its measured road;

For when the pendulum runs down,

Which marks the span of life’s short round,

There is no upstroke to be found

For art, or money, or renown.

Acknowledgments

The Change of Human Things by Quirinus Kuhlmann, used by permission:

From THE GERMAN BAROQUE LYRIC IN ENGLISH TRANSLATION  by

George C. Schoolfield. Copyright 1961 The University of North Carolina 

Press.  Published for Studies in the Germanic Languages and Literature.

Ah Dearest, Let Us Haste Us by Martin Opitz, used by permission:

From the English translation by Frank J. Warnke, all rights reserved.

On Time by Jan Luyken used by permission:

From the English translation by Frank J. Warnke, all rights reserved.

On War  and On Precious Stones by Laurent Drelincourt, used by permission of the publisher,      E.P. Dutton, Inc. From THE BAROQUE POEM by Harold B. Segel Copyright 1974 by Harold B. Segel.

 

 

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