from Missa pro Defunctis (L)
Over a period of more than ten years Stravinsky and the great modernist poet T S Eliot had mooted a collaboration, including a ballet based on Eliot’s Samson Agonistes, and a dramatic work based on the story of Noah. They came to nothing, but in 1962 Stravinsky did make a short choral setting of part of ‘Little Gidding’ under the title Anthem ‘The dove descending breaks the air’. The death of Eliot three years later prompted this beautiful, sparse tribute, a setting of the opening words of the Latin mass for the dead, to which he would soon return for the Requiem Canticles. Like so many of his late works, the Introitus has a verse structure, punctuated by instrumental responses.
Repertoire note by Jonathan Cross