Madrigal a 5 voci

for Brass Quintet

This is a single-movement work in a genre that is sort of starting to define a large part of my output – let’s call it a “psychological tone poem”.  The idea is that there is a narrative program behind the music, but the music occasionally forays into areas beyond the possibilities of traditional narrative (as music is wont to do).  I suppose it’s sort of my spin on a Lynchian mode of story-telling, although I would argue that composers of art music have been doing this sort of thing for centuries.

I imagine this particular piece taking place in Northern Italy around 1600.  A noble family entertains themselves by singing a madrigal at the home.  The deranged son of this family becomes obsessed with the plot of this madrigal, in which a beautiful young princess is courted by a prince from far off but ends up dying at the hands of fate (or something… isn’t that basically what happens in all of these madrigals?)  One of the singing family members (the top soprano, no less) bears a strong resemblance to the beautiful princess in the madrigal story.  This is rather unfortunate for her, because the story of the madrigal becomes all to real in the mind of her demented young relative, who kills her in order to fulfill the story’s ending.  The natural harmonic playing of the horn is a major element of the piece, representing the deranged offspring and providing the opening horn calls as the murder is chased through the woods.

I wrote this piece on commission from a highly virtuosic chamber ensemble, the Gaudete Brass Quintet.  Unfortunately, the fact that this group does most of its concertizing in educational and church settings means that my piece hasn’t, uh, exactly fit into their programming schedule as of yet (which is probably for the best as far as their audiences are concerned).  Luckily, I had the chance to premiere and record the piece with a splendid group of students during the summer of ’10 at the Pierre Monteux School in Hancock, ME.  A special shout-out goes to the very able Mirella Gable, a horn student at Eastman for tackling this wicked and bizarre part!