World premiere of version
Purcell Room, London
Park Lane String Sextet
In this choral prayer to the Virgin, my intention was to evoke the adoration, warmth and pure faith of the Polish peasant, for whom worship of the Virgin Mary has a very special closeness and significance. My desire to compose this piece was enkindled both by my memories of the naive beauty of the religious folk art of Poland, and by the moving and powerful mediaeval Latin text of an anonymous Polish poet - which I unearthed after a great deal of search. These two factors dictated to me the musical language as well as the structure.
The melodic theme based on the pentatonic scale is closely related to Polish folk music as well as some distant flavour of plainchant. This theme weaves consistently through all the six voices, passing through all 12 keys, and these processes are designed symmetrically.
The song opens in the first part with soprano and mezzo-soprano only, singing pianissimo, a most humble invocation to the Virgin. The other voices gradually join in, slowly swelling into a warm fortissimo climax. In the middle part of the work, in pianissimo, the voices intone [almost parlando] rather than sing, with much emphasis on the rhythm of the words, chacterising a peasant congregation in a country church. The third part is a reflection of the first as regards musical material, but dynamically it leads to a much stronger fortissimo. The prayer has become more urgent, and it intensifies in its ardour until it reaches final ecstatic shouts on the name 'Maria'.
[The String sextet version of Song to the Virgin Mary was arranged by Andrzej Panufnik to be performed by the Park Lane Group Sextet in the same programme as his newly commissioned Messages for string sextet.
This programme note can be reproduced free of charge in concert programmes with a credit to the composer