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Lament for a Hanging Man

for soprano and ensemble
texts from the Lamentations of Jeremiah and Sylvia Plath's "The Hanging Man"
soprano and ensemble
Product number: LSL 4088-01
Edition: Performance material

Product Details

Description

Whereas eclectic composers may spend years establishing a rounded creative persona, those with a more intuitive sense of purpose often discover their sense of direction at an early stage and spend a fruitful life exploring its implications. On first consideration, Mark-Anthony Turnage belongs to both groups. The sound of his music reflects a range of influences, from Stravinsky, jazz and rock to Walton and Henze. Yet its distinctive flavour and way of presenting its material is beyond imitation. Moreover, this phenomenon may even be detected among his very early works, in particular Lament for a Hanging Man (1983), completed when the composer was still in his early twenties and studying at Tanglewood. Stylistically, it is a perceptible advance on the orchestral Night Dances, composed two years earlier, and itself already a work of remarkable breadth and ambition. For while the orchestral work is a link in the chain leading to the orchestral scores of more recent years, Lament is an unexpected vision of the future, prescient of the mature composer both in subject and manner of execution. The issue of the piece, suicide, confronts the same facts of violence and mortality which are the focus of so many of his more recent scores. And the medium, small ensemble flavoured with the sound of saxophones and jazz, is one he has very much made his own. Above all, however, it is the theatrical presentation that invites appreciation, not least admirers of Greek who may have pondered on the source of such a talent emerging apparently fully formed. The demands of Lament are in themselves unsophisticated. Simple lighting effects illuminate and enhance the centre of dramatic interest. Meanwhile, the soprano, beginning with a dumb show of mouthed words, moves from the back of the ensemble, between percussion and harp, via an interim point by the soprano saxophone, to the head of the group and the pair of bass clarinets, whence she returns to her original position after a culminating blackout. But the most surprising thing is the overall unity of conception. Turnage’s choice of The Hanging Man, a tragically ironic verse from the collection Ariel by Sylvia Plath, was the result of his early enthusiasm for her writings. The decision to match this text with a passage in the original Hebrew of Lamentations, a song of the Jews in exile, yet also a universal poem of desolation and betrayal, and to place them together in a dynamic, theatrical pairing, has the rightness of instinct. Reflecting this confidence, the music displays the hallmarks of the mature composer. Shifting between episodes marked ‘fast and crazy’ and ‘slow and tranquil’, the players are asked to double a variety of percussion instruments such as syn drum and lead pipe - a Turnage speciality. Saxophones and bass clarinets play with exaggerated rubato, at one point specified as ‘alla Sidney Bechet’. Here is the later sound-world in embryo - the world, for example, of the saxophone concerto Your Rockaby (1994) - captured in the crazy counterpoints that accompany the central song, or in the sleazy gestures with which the piece drifts to its startling, unequivocal close. © Nicholas Williams

Orchestral Cast

soprano(doubling syn drum, 2sus cym, 2pedal b.d)-ssax(lead pipe).2bcl(1.ssax.tom-t, 2.tom-t)-perc(vib, sus cym, h.h, 2bng, b.d, pedal b.d)-hp

More Information

Title:
Lament for a Hanging Man
for soprano and ensemble
texts from the Lamentations of Jeremiah and Sylvia Plath's "The Hanging Man"
Language:
Hebrew, English
Edition:
Performance material
Publisher/Label:
Schott Music
Year of composition:
1983
Duration:
9 ′
World Premiere:
February 4, 1984 · Durham (UK)
University of Durham
GEMINI ensemble; Margaret Field, soprano · Conductor: Peter Wiegold

Commissioned work :
Commissioned by Musicon with funds provided by Northern Arts
Series:

Technical Details

Product number:
LSL 4088-01

Performances

Set Ascending Direction
  • Lament for a Hanging Man
    Lament for a Hanging Man
    Conductor: Hans-Christian Euler
    June 1, 2008 | Hannover (Germany) , Historischer Saal im PelikanViertel
  • Lament for a Hanging Man
    Lament for a Hanging Man
    Conductor: Timothy Weiss
    Orchestra: Oberlin Conservatory
    February 28, 2008 | Oberlin, OH (United States of America) , Warner Concert Hall
  • Lament for a Hanging Man
    Lament for a Hanging Man
    Conductor: Timothy Weiss
    Orchestra: Oberlin Conservatory
    February 28, 2007 | Oberlin, OH (United States of America) , Oberlin Conservatory
  • Lament for a Hanging Man
    Lament for a Hanging Man
    Orchestra: Bergamo Ensemble
    February 23, 2005 | Canterbury (United Kingdom) , St. Gregory's Centre
  • Lament for a Hanging Man
    Lament for a Hanging Man
    April 25, 2004 | Kansas City (MO) (United States of America) , St. Mary's Episcopal Church
  • Set Ascending Direction

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