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Michael Nyman

Publisher: Chester Music

I Sonetti Lussuriosi (2007)
Work Notes
version for Michael Nyman Band
Text Writer
Pietro Aretino (1492-1556)
Chester Music Ltd
Soloist(s) and Large Ensemble (7 or more players)
Year Composed
45 Minutes
Alternate Orchestration
Piano quintet and voice and soloist and orchestra

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  • 19 NOV 2012
    Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
    BBC Concert Orchestra
    Marie Angel; Keith Lockhart, conductor
  • 18 APR 2008
    I Sonetti Lussuriosi Country Premiere
    Stadhaus Ulm, Germany
    European Music Project
    Maria Rosendorfsky; Chatschatur Kanajan, conductor

Michael Nyman's film music has won a global audience, but much of his best writing has been for the voice. Text matters to him; so does the style of the singer he's writing for, whether it's the ethereal iciness of Sarah Leonard or the snarling raunch of Ute Lemper. The soloist in the London premiere of his song cycle I sonetti lussuriosi (The lustful sonnets) was Marie Angel, her delivery mixing sensuality and violence to thrilling effect. Hers may not be the most purely beautiful voice but she uses it with a rare imagination. The poems, by the 16th-century Italian, Pietro Aretino, talked dirty; so dirty that the translations were kept, quite literally, under the counter, available only to consenting adults. The sonnets present sex at its most joyfully bestial, and, with the Michael Nyman Band (composer at the piano) by turns jaunty and brash or languid and lyrical, Angel had licence to let fly. She scoured her chest register, curdled her intonation, made the consonants spit and caressed the vowels into submission. It was a virtuoso performance
Nick Kimberley, Evening Standard,07/12/2007
For over 25 years, the Michael Nyman Band has been playing Nyman’s special blend of rock-funk-minimal-classical fusions and shows no signs of aging or getting tired. Tonight’s concert at the Barbican shows that not only is Michael Nyman still entertaining and provoking us but, if anything, is getting better. I approached the second part with some trepidation, especially as I had read the texts that Nyman sets in his new work I Sonetti Lussuriosi (2007) – “erotic” poems by Pietro Aretino (1492 – 1556). Well, some will view these sonnets as erotic, but others will see them as smut: each of the eight poems concerned one person doing sexual things to another in the most graphic terms. All of this was in my head as Angel and Nyman came onto the stage but then the music started and I knew immediately that Nyman had created one of his very best works. I would even go so far as to call I Sonetti Lussuriosi a work of genius. This was a new side to Nyman : the music was subtle and tender, the motoric rhythms were kept to a minimum, used mainly as colouristic devices, and the well-known chunkiness was used in chordal music rather than as a pulse. I am sure that I also heard a tinge of urban jazz in the trumpet part at a couple of points. To be sure, there were faster moments, but they were very restrained. The music was sexy and sassy, perhaps going against the very hard language employed, which made the piece all the better. There were two absolutely beautiful violin solos from Gabrielle Lester. what we heard here was a superb piece of work, and that is ultimately what matters: I say again, we heard one of the very best works Michael Nyman has presented to his public so far - and I can hardly wait to hear it again perhaps in a studio recording where all the balance problems should be ironed out and the work can be heard fairly and clearly. Nyman set eight of Aretino’s sixteen sonnets – I hope he sets the other eight soon. All in all a most worthwhile evening and I Sonetti Lussuriosi was one of the most exciting, interesting and satisfying premières I have attended in some time.
Bob Briggs, Music Web International,06/12/2007
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