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Judith Weir

Publisher: Chester Music

In the Land of Uz (2017)
Commissioned by BBC Radio 3 and first performed by the BBC Singers and the Nash Ensemble conducted by David Hill at the BBC Proms in Southwark Cathedral, London, on 12th August 2017
Work Notes
Commissioned by BBC Radio 3
Publisher
Chester Music Ltd
Category
Chorus and Orchestra/Ensemble
Year Composed
2017
Duration
35 Minutes
Chorus
SATB
Language
English
Soloist
Tenor
Availability
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Score   

Programme Note
Judith Weir In the Land of Uz (2017)
In the Land of Uz is a dramatised reading of the biblical Book of Job, from which all the text is taken, in the musical form of a cantata, or short oratorio. The majority of the music is sung by the chorus, but there are also ‘obbligato’ roles for a small group of instruments which appear singly or in pairs; viola, double bass, soprano saxophone, trumpet, tuba and organ. Job appears from time to time as a solo tenor; his thoughts are also represented by the viola. Although the bulk of the storytelling is undertaken by the chorus, a speaking narrator also makes occasional appearances.

1. Prologue
In a contest of strength, God and Satan conspire to test the faith of Job, a God-fearing and comfortably settled inhabitant of the Land of Uz. First Satan destroys Job’s family, animals and possessions. When Job retains his dignity and refuses to curse God, Satan smites him with a plague of boils. The solo viola joins in his song at this point, and becomes his ‘alter ego’. In extreme physical discomfort, Job insists that whatever happens to us, we must take the rough with the smooth.

2. Lament
Job, together with the viola, expresses his sadness, curses the day of his birth, and longs for death. Here his words are sung by the whole chorus.

3. Job’s Comforters
Job’s friends (sung here by different groupings of the chorus) arrive at the scene, and are at first compassionate, urging an optimistic outlook. They are joined by a saxophone and double bass. Later, their argument hardens; God is always right, so Job must have done something wrong. Job continues to express his dark view of the inevitability of decay and death.

4. Where is Wisdom?
This famous and beautiful biblical chapter takes the form of an interlude, inviting a discussion about the elusive nature and scarcity of wisdom. But at the conclusion (to a huge organ entry) God’s superiority is once again declared.

5. The Whirlwind
A vigorous duet for trumpet and organ.

6. God Speaks
Out of the whirlwind, God (represented by the male voices of the chorus and the tuba) speaks and re-asserts his authority. Who was it, after all, who created the universe in the first place, he argues, citing the many wonders of the natural world? Job withdraws from the argument with continued dignity and diplomacy.

7. Conclusion
Impressed by Job’s composure, God engineers a sudden revival of his fortunes. His possessions are amply restored, making him twice as prosperous as he was before. He has a new family of sons and daughters, and sees several generations prosper, having himself lived to the age of 140. The voices quietly withdraw from the scene, concluding: ‘So Job died, being old, and full of days’.

Judith Weir



Performances
Date
Title
  • 23 FEB 2019
    In the Land of Uz US Premiere
    Christ Church, New Haven, CT
    Yale Schola Cantorum
    David Hill, conductor

Reviews
…it’s the simplicity and spareness of Weir’s score that give it such resonance. Just six instruments including an organ accompany the singers, all used with incredible restraint. The viola becomes Job’s other self, accompanying his laments and leading him through the final, touching acceptance of his old age; a trumpet joins with the organ to depict a whirlwind, and the appearance of a tuba is reserved for the voice of God in the penultimate section. And there’s a saxophone too, used to depict the hypocrisy of Job’s comforters…. Understated and unforced, the musical details fuse into the storytelling in a way that seems perfectly natural, never contrived.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian,15/08/2017
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