The Lament of Rachel
About this work:
A parent can imagine no more devastating loss than that of a child. To express the grief over the slaughter of the Innocents by Herod following the birth of Jesus, the evangelist Matthew invoked the near-mythical Rachel of the Book of Genesis who weeps
both for parents who have actually experienced such a loss and for those who fear it above all else.
I was inspired to compose The Lament of Rachel by The Waverly Consort's performance of an adaptation of the Ordo Rachelis, a liturgical drama recorded in a twelfth-century Fleury playbook but better known in this century as part of The Play of Herod. To express the intensity of Rachel's anguish I was etermined to use a dense, chromatic, seemingly uncompromising harmonic language and an accompanying instrument capable of producing sharp attacks within extreme ranges of both pitches and dynamics.
No less than when it was heard more than 900 years ago, Rachel's lament is dramatic, alternating as it does between the cries of the inconsolable Rachel and the pleas of those who try in vain to console her. Even after an angel reminds her--and us--of Jesus' command to "Suffer the little children to come unto me," we leave the "theater" still hearing the moans of Rachel, whose own individual voice can be heard for the first time only toward the very end of the piece as she continues to grieve for herself and for us.
The Lament of Rachel was given its first performance by the Virtuoso Singers of New York under the direction of Harold Rosenbaum in New York City on April 24, 1999.
Score available from Mira Music Associates. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Recorded on Capstone Records CPS-8731
Review: "The CD [Music for Voices by Allen Brings] is a very good anthology of the vocal compositons of Allen Brings. The Three Holy Sonnets (1988) for chorus and orchestra, The Lament of Rachel (1994) for chamber choir and piano, four-hands, and From Psalterium Davidicum (1994) for chorus and orchestra all manifest a polyphonic texture for the voices and the instruments. These compositions are dramatic in their use of dynamics, contrasting textures, and dissonant harmonic language.
"The other recordings, A Herrick Suite (1977) for chorus & piano, Three Songs of Blake & Donne for soprano & piano contain beautiful melodies that fit the content of the words eloquently. These works manifest a more consonant harmonic language. The piano accompaniments are rich in counterpoint and create a thematic unity through variation.
"The quality and the performance of the recording are excellent."
Helmut Christoferus Calabrese
New Music Connoisseur, 2004
Version: chamber choir & piano, 4-hands
Year composed: 1997
Ensemble type: Chorus, with or without Solo Voices:Chorus with Keyboard
Instrumentation: 2 Piano, 4 S, 4 A,1 A soloist(s), 3 T, 3 B
Instrumentation notes: One piano, four-hands