In his preface
to the published choral score Morten Lauridsen writes, "Lux
Aeterna for chorus and chamber orchestra was composed for and
is dedicated to the Los Angeles Master Chorale and its superb conductor,
Paul Salamunovich, who gave the world premiere in the Dorothy Chandler
Pavilion of the Los Angeles Music Center on April 13, 1997. The work
is in five movements played without pause. Its texts are drawn from
sacred Latin sources, each containing references to Light. The piece
opens and closes with the beginning and ending of the Requiem Mass,
with the three central movements drawn, respectively, from the Te
Deum (including a line from the Beatus Vir), O Nata
Lux, and Veni, Sancte Spiritus.
instrumental introduction to the Introitus softly recalls
motivic fragments from two pieces especially close to my heart (my
settings of Rilkes Contre Qui, Rose and
O Magnum Mysterium) which recur throughout the work in
various forms. Several new themes in the lntroitus are then introduced
by the chorus, including an extended canon on et Lux perpetua.
In Te, Domine, Speravi contains, among other musical elements,
the cantus firmus Herzliebster Jesu (from the Nuremberg
Songbook, 1677) and a lengthy inverted canon on fiat misericordia.
O Nata Lux and Veni, Sancte Spiritus are paired
songsthe former the central a cappella motet, and
the latter a spirited, jubilant canticle. A quiet setting of the
Agnus Dei precedes the final Lux Aeterna, which
reprises the opening section of the Introitus and concludes
with a joyful Alleluia.
of Lux Aeterna:
"The first recording of Lux Aeterna by the Los Angeles
based composer Morten Lauridsen demonstrates that it IS possible
for important contemporary music to speak directly to the human
heart. Composed in 1997 for the Los Angeles Master Chorale, Lux
Aeterna is a rich, complex, intensely moving piece that people
will be listening to for a long time to come. Paul Salamunovich
extracts a brilliant performance from his superbly drilled forces
and the recorded sound is superb. If you think that modern music
is largely confined to the mindless delights of minimalism or to
incomprehensible noise, then this wonderfully human music will prove
just how wrong you are. A work like Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna
suggests just how appealing contemporary music can be."
Jim Svejda, "The Record Shelf" (NPR Radio)
On the RCM CD "Lux Aeterna" (RCM 19705):
"This program accomplished the impossible: it actually made
me regret not being from Los Angeles so I could join the Master
Chorale under Maestro Salamunovichs direction and spend my
days singing Morten Lauridsens music. Lauridsen, professor
and Chair of the Composition Department at USC, is also Composer-in-Residence
of the Chorale. He writes heart-felt, radiant, absolutely gorgeous
music; and it is delivered con amore here by everyone concerned.
Lux Aeterna is a five-movement non-liturgical Requiem for
choir and chamber orchestra that draws from the Mass, plus portions
of the Te Deum, O Nata Lux, and Veni Sancte Spiritus.
What a powerfully uplifting work it is. Ave Maria and
O Magnum Mysterium are a cappella pieces full of long
lines, arching suspensions, shimmering dissonances, and intense
spiritual beauty. Lauridsens work in the secular realm is
represented by two song cycles: Les Chansons des Roses, which
employs five flower-inspired texts by Rainer Maria Rilke, and the
five orchestrated Mid-Winter Songs, inspired by the poetry
of Robert Graves. I dont want to waste time stringing adjectives
together. Suffice it to say this is all music straight from the
heart. Emotions churn in warm, gentle ways, and youd have
to be a constipated, curmudgeonly old coot inside not to be moved
by it! The choir and orchestra sound like they were deputized by
the angels to bring this music to earth. RCMs sound is warm,
and plush, and the notes, once they stop babbling, are helpful.
This will be on my Years Best List for sure come January.
I bet it makes yours too!"
Philip Greenfield (American Record Guide)
Chansons des Roses (Rainer Maria Rilke)
une seule fleur
Contre qui, rose
De ton rêve trop plein
La rose complete
to his vast output of German poetry, Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)
composed nearly 400 poems in French. His poems on roses struck
me as especially charming, filled with gorgeous lyricism, deftly
crafted and elegant in their imagery. These exquisite poems are
primarily light, joyous and playful, and the musical settings
are designed to enhance these characteristics and capture the
delicate beauty and sensuousness of the poetry. Distinct melodic
and harmonic materials recur throughout the cycle, especially
between Rilke's poignant "Contre qui, rose" (set as
a wistful nocturne) and his moving "La rose complète."
The final piece, "Dirait-on," is composed as a tuneful
chanson populaire, or folksong, that weaves together two melodic
ideas first heard in fragmentary form in preceding movements.
Les Chansons des Roses was premiered and recorded in 1993 by Portland
, Oregon 's celebrated chamber choir, Choral Cross-Ties, conducted
by Bruce Browne. The complete cycle has been widely performed
since then and also recorded by the Los Angeles Master Chorale,
Los Angeles Chamber Singers, Nordic Chamber Choir and tonight's
performers, the Donald Brinegar Singers.
-- Morten Lauridsen
Maria is one of Lauridsen's growing series of a cappella motets
on well-known Latin texts, received its world premiere performance
by the Los Angeles Master Chorale, conducted by Paul Salamunovich,
on December 14, 1997. The composer wrote, "This serene setting
was specially composed as a 70th birthday gift to Maestro Salamunovich,
who continues to enrich us all through his magnificent and enduring
contributions to the art of choral music." The changing moods
of the text's two verses are reflected in a pair of strong and evocative
themes, and in polyphonic textures enriched with divisis
to eight or more parts, and peppered with the composer's trademark
© 1998 by Peter Rutenberg. All Rights Reserved.
on poems by Robert Graves was commissioned by the University of
Southern California to celebrate its Centennial in 1980 and premiered
that year by the USC Chamber Singers, conducted by Rodney Eichenberger.
The cycle has since been widely performed in both its original chorus/piano
version (recorded by Choral Cross-Ties, conducted by Bruce Browne,
on Lauridsen -- The Complete Choral Cycles) and
the subsequent chorus/orchestral setting, commissioned and premiered
by the Pasadena Chamber Orchestra in the Ambassador Auditorium in
1983 and recorded by the Los Angeles Master Chorale, conducted by
Paul Salamunovich, on Lauridsen -- Lux Aeterna (RCM).
In reading Graves (1895-1985), I became very much taken with the richness,
elegance and extraordinary beauty of his poetry and his insights regarding
the human experience. Five diverse poems with a common "Winter"
motif (a particular favorite of mine, rich in the paradoxical symbolism
of dying/rejuvenation, light/darkness, sleeping/waking) suggested
a cohesive musical cycle. The principal musical materials for
the entire work, especially the intervals of an ascending major ninth
and descending major second, are derived from the opening choral setting
of "Dying Sun" and recur throughout the piece. The
cycle is cast in an overall arch form, framed by the intensely dramatic
and passionate setting of the "Lament for Pasiphaë"
and the gentle, prayerful "Intercession in Late October."
– Morten Lauridsen
commissioned by Marshall
in honor of his wife, Terry Knowles, has had several thousand performances
throughout the world and dozens of recordings since its 1994 premiere
by the Los Angeles Master Chorale. I have also arranged the
work for solo voice and piano or organ (recorded on Northwest
Journey by Jane Thorngren accompanied by the composer), men's
chorus and brass ensemble; H. Robert Reynold's stunning adaptation
for symphonic winds was recently premiered in Minneapolis
Thornton Wind Symphony.
For centuries, composers have been inspired by the beautiful O
Magnum Mysterium text depicting the birth of the new-born
King amongst the lowly animals and shepherds. This affirmation
of God's grace to the meek and the adoration of the Blessed Virgin
are celebrated in my setting through a quiet song of profound inner
Six "FireSongs" on Italian Renaissance Poems
Lass', Il Bel Viso?
Quando Son Più Lontan
Amor, Io Sento L'alma
Luci Serene E Chiare
Se Per Havervi, Oime
The choral masterpieces of the High Renaissance, especially the
madrigals by Monteverdi and Gesualdo, provided the inspiration
for my own Madrigali. Italian love poems of that
era have constituted a rich lyric source for many composers, and
while reading them I became increasingly intrigued by the symbolic
image of flames, burning and fire that recurred within this context.
I decided to compose an intensely dramatic cycle based on Renaissance
love poems employing this fire motive while blending stylistic
musical features of the period with a contemporary compositional
idiom. These characteristics include word painting, modality,
bold harmonic shifts, intricate counterpoint and augenmusic,
or eye music, which occur throughout the cycle.
I wanted this music to emanate (like ripples from a pebble thrown
into a pond) from a single, primal sonority – one dramatic chord
that would encapsulate the intensity of the entire cycle and which
would provide a musical motivic unity to complement the poetic.
This sonority, which I've termed the "Fire-Chord," opens
the piece and is found extensively throughout all six movements
in myriad forms and manipulations.
Like several of my cycles, the Madrigali are designed
in an arch form with significant sharing of material between movements
one and six, two and five, The cycle has its dramatic high
point in movement four, "Io Piango," where the music
gradually builds from pianissimo to a fortissimo, seven-part explosion
of "Fire-Chord" before settling to a quiet return
of the opening measures. The "Fire-Chord" returns
in its original key and spacing in the final movement, on the
word ..."You." The final cadence in the
cycle is left unresolved – this love will forever remain unrequited.
The Madrigali were premiered in 1987 by the USC Chamber
Singers, conducted by Rodney Eichenberger, and the complete cycle
been recorded by the Seattle Pro Musica, Donald Brinegar
Singers, Nordic Chamber Choir, University of Alberta Chamber Singers
and the Thornton Chamber Choir of the University of Southern California.
on Madrigali by Peter Rutenberg:
Monteverdi and Gesualdo all steep in the font of inspiration for
Morten Lauridsen's Madrigali (Six "Fire Songs"
on Italian Renaissance Poems). Everything hinges on the first sonority,
what Lauridsen calls the "fire chord": it is at once the
hitching post and germinal womb which, a thorough analysis would
show, informs virtually all that follows. Transformed, or rather
forged in passion's fiery furnace, the "fire chord" also
sizzles as the final sonority.
accomplish this, Lauridsen draws on an armory of compositional techniques,
not simply in skillful display, but becauselike the 16th century
composers whose stile rappresentativo he memorializesthe
text and its adequate expression require it. A prominent feature
of the harmony is polytonality. Ives used it to represent separate
musical happenings converging on one location, such as several marching
bands arriving simultaneously at the town square. In the Madrigali,
it likewise portrays a confluence of memories that coexist in the
consciousness. The listener's balanced attention brings these multiple
images into clear, audible focus. Many of the explosive climaxes
throughout the cycle rely on the compounding of harmonic tension
through dissonances and density. The cadences, sectional and final,
recall and replay the ubiquitous closing suspension of the period
with great interpretive variety.
speaking, there are the bouncy, light tunes of an Orazio Vecchi
or Giovanni Gastoldi, along with Morley's English take on these
Italianisms; there are Gesualdo's defiant departures; Monteverdi's
soaring, almost Romantic, fantasies and his sharp, snappy turns
in equal measure; in places there is even evidence of Heinrich Schuetz's
Opus 1 (written in Italy while the composer studied with Monteverdi).
With respect to rhythm, a number of dance patterns are represented
in duple and triple meters, as well as the resultant hemiola
from playing both simultaneously. The texture varies constantly
among the historical possibilities, with imitative counterpoint
yielding chordal movement and just as soon drifting back into counterpoint,
or brief canonic activity between momentarily rival factions in
the choir. Vertically, one or two voices may expand rapidly to four
or as many as eight. The formal structure follows a variety of older
models, although each piece is distinct within the cycle. In brief
contour, they are: I-AABBAA; II-ABABCCAB; III-ABBA; IV-ABA; V-AABBAA;
all the Madrigali are a tour-de-force of 20th century a cappella
writing whose inventiveness and attention to detail honor their
16th century paragons. Vocally demanding in the best bel canto
tradition, they are generously rewarding to perform and should take
their place among the few great works that will last into the next
Copyright © 1995 by Peter Rutenberg. All Rights Reserved.
Cuatro Canciones was commissioned by the Yoav
Chamber Ensemble and premiered at the Schoenberg Institute in 1983.
The cycle has since been frequently performed throughout the United
States and abroad by contemporary music groups, including numerous
performances by the Los Angeles-based Viklarbo Ensemble (with Ann
Marie Ketchum), which recorded the work on Lauridsen
– Northwest Journey
keeping with the generally introspective and thoughtful nature of
the texts, the vocal part is primarily reflective and expressive
while the instrumental ensemble provides color and commentary.
Each song has its own predominate interval or intervallic cell ("Pause
of the Clock" – minor second and minor third; "Night"
– major second; "The Moon Rising" – perfect fourth and
tritone; "Farewell"– major third and perfect fifth), each
song adding its own cell to those already presented. These accumulated
motives are all referenced in the final song, Lorca's elegant, poignant
When Frost Moves Fast
As Birds Come Nearer
The Racing Waterfall
A Child Lay Down
Who Reads by Starlight
And What Of Love
I was introduced to the poetry of Howard Moss through the fine musical
settings of his texts by Ned Rorem and William Flanagan.
A Winter Come (from Moss's collection of the same name) became
the first in my series of vocal cycles and was premiered in 1968
by soprano Rose Taylor and pianist Ralph Grierson. The songs
are tuneful and direct with much of the music derived from manipulations
of the opening motive: E-flat, D-flat, C and B-flat.
Howard Moss (1922-1987) was, for many years, poetry editor of the
New Yorker. His Selected Poems (Atheneum)
received the 1972 National Book Award for Poetry. A Winter
Come had its East Coast premiere at the Kennedy
and has been recorded by Jane Thorngren and Mr. Grierson on
– Northwest Journey.