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Trostlieder in Widerwärtigkeit des Kriegs

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modified on 2021-02-24, 11:56
Trostlieder in Widerwärtigkeit des Kriegs, premiered by EXAUDI at Wigmore Hall, 20 December 2015.

The work is a setting for seven solo voices of texts from Martin Opitz’s Trostgedichte in Widerwertigkeit deß Kriegs (1633) and was commissioned by EXAUDI as a companion piece for some of the Geistliche Chormusik (1648) of Heinrich Schütz (1615-72). Opitz (1597-1639) writes about the impact of the Thirty Years War on north-eastern Germany. The devastation of this period was echoed in 1945 when, at the end of the Second World War, the Red Army arrived in this territory. The aim was to write music that might represent the ‘awfulness of war’; as Opitz says in the words which open the Trostlieder, ‘May my tongue burn with passion.’

The history of text-setting in western art music since 1945 has been one in which composers have tended to impose their own rhythmic structures on the texts they set. Although Fox wanted to foreground the 12-beat pattern of the Alexandines, the third of the Trostlieder deliberately evoked the more flamboyant Italian madrigalian style of Monteverdi, with whom Heinrich Schütz studied.

This was further refracted through reference to the disjunct solo vocal writing of Luigi Nono’s Canto sospeso (1956); consequently Opitz’s metre is overwhelmed by the increasingly contrapuntal vocal writing. Nevertheless, the music falls into twelve clearly delineated sections, echoing the twelve feet of the Alexandrine.