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Simon Bainbridge

Publisher: Novello & Co

Tenebrae (2009)
Commissioned by the Hilliard Ensemble.
Novello & Co Ltd
Solo Voice(s) and up to 6 players
Year Composed
Solo Instrument(s)
ATTB soli

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Programme Note
Simon Bainbridge Tenebrae (2009)
I have for a long time been strongly drawn to Paul Celan’s powerful and deeply poignant poem “Tenebrae”. Its rich and vivid imagery provided me with a timbral and harmonic palette that strongly defined and articulated the work’s musical structure and direction. In writing for the fascinating combination of the Hilliard ensemble and Arditti Quartet, I used the poem’s title in its English translation “Shadows” to explore and create a continuously shifting perspective between the four voices and four strings.

Simon Bainbridge

Score sample

  • 07 NOV 2009
    Tenebrae World Premiere
    Wigmore Hall, London
    Hilliard Ensemble & Arditti Quartet

.....the work’s power and unbridled passion tapped by all involved left the audience mesmerized.
Daniele Sahr, Music Web International,30/03/2013
A Hilliard commission, Tenebrae is a masterly, chilling setting of Paul Celan’s famous post-Holocaust poem on the theme of human suffering. Bainbridge’s setting is one of his most arresting, infused, as in his earlier setting of Primo Levi, with original power and compellingly tormented beauty. As well as the interactions that interpret the title, ‘shadows’, as a “continuously shifting perspective between the four voices and strings”, the finely-honed harmonic sand rhythmic gestures convey both the essence and detail of Celan’s text, which takes the form of a prayer that inverts the conventional human/divine relationship. Eerie, disembodied, the voices seem at first separate from strings, yet they emerge more confidently, eventually taking the lead. Strings and voices move in blocs like finely calibrated crystals, suspended in silences. As in the hushed shimmers of Bainbridge’s orchestral Diptych, inspired by Venetian reflections, sound and silence are coupled in an intimate balance of time and space.
Malcolm Miller, Tempo,05/04/2010
A word for another brazen conjunction, that of the Hilliard Ensemble, the male-voice quartet whose repertory stretches from the Middle Ages to tomorrow, and the Arditti Quartet, custodians of the contemporary string quartet. Jointly at the Wigmore Hall, they premiered Simon Bainbridge's Tenebrae, an austere, Nono-ish, deeply felt setting of a Paul Celan post-Holocaust poem.
Paul Driver, The Sunday Times,15/11/2009
The use of silence, and of the strings to cushion the gentle, overlapping chanting of the voices on eerie chords, seemed to suggest an "otherworld" shadowing of the human.
Richard Morrison, The Times,10/11/2009
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