Monday 3 April 2017

Inner Voices

Voces Intimae:
the Inner Voices in the 
Sibelius string quartet

In 1909 the Finnish composer Sibelius wrote two words on a friend's score above the three soft detached E minor chords in the central Adagio movement of his string quartet: "Voces intimae" (inner or intimate voices). Tender, pleading questions? Was he asking himself those questions sooner or later familiar to us all - "why?", or "must it be?" or "is this it?". Was he pondering the possible consequences of a serious throat operation? Sibelius was not in the habit of "explaining" his music, but he wrote to his wife: "It turned out as something wonderful. The kind of thing that brings a smile to your lips at the hour of death. I will say no more". Was this a soulful quest for serenity? 
The Ebonit Saxophone Quartet arranged this string quartet for our programme Nightfall, of which our next performance will be in the Augustinerkirche in Würzburg on April 12th. Nightfall also includes Reger, Webern and Shostakovich, all grouped around three Sonatas from Haydn's masterpiece The Seven Last of Words of Christ on the Cross. And there again we are confronted with that "why". "My God, why hast though forsaken me?" On the day when "darkness covered the face of the earth". And ever since we have been searching for enlightenment. The work was intended to be performed in a darkened space, with one source of illumination, so it makes sense that I should provide this from the kinetic illuminations from my overhead projectors. I elaborate this thought in an earlier blog, written before our first performance of Nightfall, two years ago
The Sibelius is absolutely appropriate in this programme. Full of incredibly moving tender exchanges, you can watch the continuously changing and overlapping of my two kinetic images and a loving "conversation" with two brushes.

At the start, the D minor of this quartet evokes in my synesthetic brain the colour of greenish khaki, interrupted by a brief passage in B flat major, where I automatically hear an optimistic warm clearing glow of sienna. But after many rich exchanges of colour, somehow this movement ends in a pale loneliness, barely breathing. It makes a deeply emotional impact on me, but as I breathe out in synch with this wonderful wind ensemble, I discover a sense of calm and happiness.


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