CYCLES – for 1-2-4-8 and 12 part choir (or 12 solo voices) 1977
Text by Ole Sarvig (1921-81).
I. “Circles and spirals”,
II. “Winter pause” (no music)
III “Germ and crystal”
IV. ”Spring duet”
V. “Spring chanson”
VI.“ Circles and reflections”
When in 1975 I had finished composing my 3rd Symphony (begun in 1973), I wrote three simple melodies for two psalm texts by the Danish poet Ole Sarvig (1921-1981): “The Year” and “Choral Hymn”. These three tunes were derived from the same material as the second movement of the 3rd Symphony and could be harmonized together in several different tempo relationships at the same time - like fractals – which inspired me to write several choral and instrumental works in the following decade based on these melodies: “Frost Psalm”, “Winter Cantata”, “Winter Hymn”, “Cantica” and others. One of these ´Sarvig melodies´ is now in the Danish Hymnbook, under the title “Året”(The Year).
“Cycles” is – like “Frost Psalm” for 16 part choir – a vocal piece that expands, also in vocal parts, from one voice to twelve part polyphony. Text and fragments of Sarvig´s poems “Året” (The year) and “I Haven” (In the garden) are combined, and tree melodies are unfolding: a hymn like melody (The passing year), en descending, more dance like songline (A heaven germ on winged foot) and a longer, winding theme (We walk in circles).
In the first movement, “Circles and spirals”, the music is spiraling in continuous accelerandi between the divided three choirs. The second movement “Winter pause” has no music, the singers change position moving like in a slow procession, from tree choirs to one choir. In “Germ and crystal” the music expands from a center, also in dynamics, from pianissimo to fortissimo. “Spring-duet” and “Spring chanson” are two, related shorter interludes. In the duet the two voices are interweaved in an almost fractal design, and in the chanson the motives are changing from voice to voice, like a team of relay runners. The last movement, “Circles and reflections” both text and musical themes from the start are returning, changed and reflected in different ways.
The work exists in both the original Danish version and in an English version, based on translations by Ole Sarvig and his English wife Helen Sarvig.
Per Nørgård (2008)