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Julia Wolfe

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Cruel Sister (2004)
commissioned by musica femina münchen e.V.
Publisher
Red Poppy
Category
Orchestra
Sub Category
String Orchestra
Year Composed
2004
Duration
35 Minutes
Orchestration
Programme Note
Julia Wolfe Cruel Sister (2004)
Composer Note:

Cruel Sister takes its title from a dark and fantastic old English ballad of the same name. I first heard a beautiful and eerie rendition of the song while in college, on an album by the British folk/rock group Pentangle. While there are no musical references to the original tune, the story of the ballad inspired a response. It's a tale of two sisters — one bright as the sun, one cold and dark. So that she can have the love of the young man who has come courting, the dark sister pushes the bright one into the sea. The dead sister, who is washed up on the shore, is found by two minstrels who shape her breast bone into a fine harp. They come to play at the sister's wedding. As the music from the harp reaches the bride's ears the song concludes, "And surely now her tears will flow." The ballad is incredibly haunting and powerful. I was fascinated and horrified by the overwhelming greed and jealousy of the tale. My "Cruel Sister" is a search to unravel this human dilemma. In a sense, it is the music of "the harp," a plea for a higher love.

— © Julia Wolfe


  • Ensemble
    Ensemble Resonanz
    Conductor
    Brad Lubman
    Cantaloupe Music :
Performances
Date
Title
  • 27 JUL 2014
    New York, NY
    Bang On A Can Marathon
  • 24 APR 2014
    New York, NY
    Carnegie Hall
    Ensemble Signal
  • 24 APR 2014
    Carnegie Hall, New York, NY
    Ensemble Signal
    Brad Lubman, conductor
  • 01 FEB 2014
    France
    L'Orchestre d'Auvergne
  • 18 JUL 2013
    New York, NY
    Dova, Inc.

    Other Dates:
    19,20 July - New York, NY
  • 22 FEB 2013
    New York, NY
    Dova, Inc.

    Other Dates:
    23,24 February - New York, NY
  • 15 FEB 2013
    Montreal, QC, Canada
    Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal

    Other Dates:
    11 May - Montreal, QC, Canada
  • 10 JAN 2013
    New York, NY
    Dova, Inc.

    Other Dates:
    11,12 January - New York, NY
  • 15 OCT 2012
    Germany
    Dance Theater Muenster
  • 11 OCT 2012
    Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
    BBC Concert Orchestra
    Keith Lockhart, conductor
  • 11 OCT 2012
    Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, UK
    BBC Concert Orchestra
    Keith Lockhart, conductor
  • 11 OCT 2012
    United Kingdom
    BBC Concert Orchestra
    Keith Lockhart, conductor
  • 10 OCT 2012
    New York, NY
    Dova, Inc.

    Other Dates:
    11-14 October - New York, NY
  • 02 JUN 2012
    Montreal, QC, Canada
    Le Carre des Lombes

    Other Dates:
    3,4 June - Montreal, QC, Canada
  • 09 OCT 2011
    Germany
    Dresdener Philharmonie
    Brad Lubman, conductor
  • 08 MAY 2011
    Barbican, London
    Britten Sinfonia
  • 08 MAY 2011
    England
    Britten Sinfonia
  • 11 FEB 2011
    Ann Arbor, MI
    University of Michigan School of Music
    Christopher Lees, conductor
  • 03 FEB 2011
    Miller Theater, New York, NY
    Signal
    Brad Lubman, conductor
  • 03 FEB 2011
    Miller Theatre, New York, NY
    Brad Lubman, conductor
  • 23 MAY 2009
    Charleston, SC
    Spoleto Festival
    John Kennedy, conductor
  • 22 OCT 2008
    Cruel Sister UK Premiere
    Haden Freeman Concert Hall, Manchester
    Viva: Orchestra of the East Midlands
    André de Ridder, conductor

Reviews
...a striking half-hour showpiece for strings alone, which moves from menace to an uneasy calm, and then to a pizzicato-led coda.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian,10/12/2012
Woman in the Mirror: Gloomy stories can be set to music especially well. The English ballad "Cruel Sister" deals with two sisters in love with the same man. In order to have him for herself, the bad sister pushes the good sister into the sea. Musicians find the bones and carve a harp out of them, on which they play at the wedding. The American composer Julia Wolfe made a fascinating piece for string orchestra out of this material, which was premièred at the concert of the Munich Chamber Orchestra in the Hercules Hall. With the rising and swelling of turbulent tone repetitions, Wolfe creates a thrilling suction of sound.
Sebastian Werr, Süddeutsche Zeitung,6/1/2004
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