A Paean for tenor, mixed choir, two clarinets, two bassoons and two horns
Title by uploader: A Paean - for tenor, mixed choir, two clarinets, two bassoons and two horns
|Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn, Tenor, Children’s choir: Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass
|Solo, Choir, Wind ensemble
Type of score
|Full score, Parts
|André van Haren
In 1996 I read an article in the newspaper about a composition contest called "Gemengd Koor +" (mixed choir plus).
I always preferred to write for human voice; this preference, plus the promise of the advertisement saying that the piece would be performed in front of a real audience, wow!
So I started thinking of what kind of music I would like to write, what kind of text and what kind of "+" I would use.
At that time I was crazy about Edgar Allen Poe, I read his collected work over and over again and had already used some of his poems for solo songs. I was working on an short opera, based on his story "The facts in the case of M. Valdemar," and it was for me more than normal to keep on going with his work: so I got deeply into his book again and found the perfect poem: A Paean. It's about a man, standing at his wife's grave. He mourns as anyone else who just lost his loved one would, and he is thinking about her death.
After reading it a couple of times, and looking up in a dictionary the words I couldn't understand, I started to feel what it was about and I just loved it! I knew immediately what the "+" would be: dark wind instruments, nml. two clarinets, two bassoons and two horns. A choir was required, but I added a little extra to it: a tenor solo singer. With this combination I started to work out my idea.
The result is a piece in which the choir is commenting on the inner thoughts of the main character, represented by the tenor solo. The choir repeats the same sentence, "How shall the burial rite be read?
The solemn song be sung? The requiem for the loveliest dead, That ever died so young?" over and over again, while the tenor solo sings the rest of the story.
To my excitement the piece was very well received. One year later, I got a letter in the mail saying that it had made to the half-finals, meaning that it would be performed together with the pieces of the other composers.
The concert took place on the 22nd. November, 1997. Listening to it at the concert, for the first time, was a beautiful but at the same time a scary experience. It felt as if everybody had had a peek in my inner heart, hearing something that was not heard by anybody else but myself. After the concert, the three winners were called out; "A Paean" became number one. I was thrilled and nervous. The concert concluded performing it one more time and the price was the promise for publication.
Here is the complete text of the poem:
by Edgar Allen Poe
How shall the burial rite be read?
The solemn song be sung ?
The requiem for the loveliest dead,
That ever died so young?
Her friends are gazing on her,
And on her gaudy bier,
And weep ! — oh! to dishonor
Dead beauty with a tear!
They loved her for her wealth —
And they hated her for her pride —
But she grew in feeble health,
And they love her — that she died.
They tell me (while they speak
Of her "costly broider'd pall")
That my voice is growing weak —
That I should not sing at all —
Or that my tone should be
Tun'd to such solemn song
So mournfully — so mournfully,
That the dead may feel no wrong.
But she is gone above,
With young Hope at her side,
And I am drunk with love
Of the dead, who is my bride. —
Of the dead — dead who lies
All perfum'd there,
With the death upon her eyes,
And the life upon her hair.
Thus on the coffin loud and long
I strike — the murmur sent
Through the grey chambers to my song,
Shall be the accompaniment.
Thou died'st in thy life's June —
But thou did'st not die too fair:
Thou did'st not die too soon,
Nor with too calm an air.
From more than fiends on earth,
Thy life and love are riven,
To join the untainted m