Publisher: Chester Music
This work was written for Geoffrey Hill on his 70th birthday.
Chester Music Ltd
Chorus and Orchestra/Ensemble
soprano, alto, tenor, baritone
I have admired the poetry of Geoffrey Hill throughout the many years of our friendship. We are exact contemporaries, born ten days apart, so our 70th birthdays came up close in the same year. I was honoured when Geoffrey borrowed the title of a piece of mine - Scenes from Comus - for the book of poems he inscribed to me. I was meanwhile working on a setting of his Tenebrae which I didn't finish writing until the end of July 2003.
Tenebrae is a sequence of eight poems in the collection of that name published in 1978. I set it for a small choir from whom the soloists are to be drawn: their solo numbers are sometimes accompanied by only one instrument. No.2 is a baritone solo, accompanied by cello. No.4 is a duet between soprano and alto, accompanied by flute and viola. No.5 is a tenor solo with violin. The first and sixth choruses are unaccompanied. The fullest scoring (for string trio and wind quartet) is reached with the last two numbers: the finale is particularly sympathetic for musicians, with its evocation of Music herself - "Angel of Tones, Medusa, Queen of the Air".