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Richard Danielpour

Publisher: AMP

Elegies (1997)
Text Writer
Kim Vaeth
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Soloists and Orchestra
Year Composed
33 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
Mezzo soprano, Baritone
Programme Note
Richard Danielpour Elegies (1997)
Composer's note:

The first movement, Vigil, represents a daughter’s anticipation, hopeful of an epiphany with her father’s spirit, singing “Cradled in your deepest name…”

The second movement, Lacrimosa, begins with the father’s tearful plaint on the horrors and carnage of war. He sings “Lost Hallowed city, infinite billows of war blossoms…” At this point, the music is at its most graphic and powerful, with dreadful martial overtones, marked with the presentiments of death, similar to the cryptic boot-steps that open Mahler’s sixth symphony. Then, the father sings “Where is my beloved?” His daughter replies, as a mystic echo from life, “Come back - Come back, vessel of helixed light, fragrant dusk of my father.”

In the third movement, Benediction, the father’s spirit imagines his unborn daughter, yet in the womb, and offers a soulful incantation for the course of her life, chanting, “Little soul, where will you go from the dark of the womb? Where will your lucent word lead you?”

The fourth movement, Litany, begins with the daughter invocation “Arise, beloved!” – to prepare the meeting of their souls, which unite momentarily. Then father and daughter sing together in progressive strophes – “What do we in this dark know?” – finally made peaceful by a symbolic “Amen” in the music alone.

In the fifth movement, Paradisum, she embraces the spiritual serenity granted by her father, beginning with “Peace, ride the air I breathe.” The concluding line is “And I will sing to you in paradise.” Here, in the music –as in previous episodes - is a combined metaphor: the use of the octatonic scale and associated harmonies represent the dark intrigues of death, played against pentatonic intonations that represent life, open and free to the “helixed light.”

--Richard Danielpour

  • Ensemble
    London Symphony Orchestra, Perspectives Ensemble
    Frederica Von Stade, Thomas Hampson, Huang Ying
    Roger Nierenberg
    Sony Classical:
[Danielpour's] Elegies is a deeply moving work. Reminiscent of one of Mahler's symphonies for orchestra and vocalists, along with a generous dollop of jazzy influences, it is a well-crafted combination of seriousness and accessibility that is appealing. At the heart of the work is [the] "Benediction." This song of acceptance is profoundly sad, with strings and winds creating a delicate air of mystery. [In] Danielpour's atmospheric score, several of the [movements] -- "'Benediction"; the penultimate song, "Litany" featuring a lovely a capella duet; and the mezzo-soprano's finale, "In Paradisum" -- are gems. Elegies [was] sublime.
John Fleming, St. Petersburg Times,01/01/0001
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