Three Holy Sonnets
About this work:
It is curious that I have set more texts in languages not my own, especially Latin. When choosing texts in English, however, I seem to have gravitated more to those by John Donne than to those
by any other single poet. Why this should be so, I think, has less to do with the twentieth century's rediscovery of this early seventeenth-century Englishman, especially after T. S. Eliot's renowned study of Donne's work published in the 1930s, than with his own choice of subject matter and the powerful and complex means by which he expressed it. If Donne's evocation of human love held special meaning for me as a young man, the depth of Donne's faith in Man's true destiny holds even greater meaning for me as a mature man and artist. Of Donne's nineteen Holy Sonnets I chose three with overlapping subject matter. These express Donne'sconviction that Death indeed holds no real power over us and is capable only of opening the gate through which we must pass in order to achieve that final union with the "three person'd God," the union for which we were created in the first place. Yet before we can achieve that, we must allow Him to "ravish" us, to "breake that knot" which ties
us to whatever would separate us.
To express such powerful thoughts I chose whatever melodic and, especially, harmonic means I felt were necessary. The range of emotions then is extreme and the level of intensity often very high. But without these I did not believe that Donne's
extraordinary poetry could be adequately conveyed nor audiences moved as deeply as I have been.
Three Holy Sonnets was completed in February, 1988, with the aid of a grant from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts. It was given its first performance by the Ars Brunesis chorus and the Moravian Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Toshiuki Shimada in Olomouc, The Czech Republic, on June 23, 2002.
and parts Score available from Mira Music Associates. Contact: email@example.com
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: chorus & orchestra
Year composed: 1988
Ensemble type: Chorus, with or without Solo Voices:Chorus with Orchestra
Instrumentation: 2 Flute, 2 Oboe, 2 Clarinet, 2 Bassoon, 4 Horn in F, 2 Trumpet, 2 Trombone, 1 Bass Trombone, 1 Tuba, 1 Timpani, 2 Percussion (General), 16 Violin, 6 Viola, 6 Cello, 4 Double bass, 25 S, 25 A, 15 T, 15 B
Instrumentation notes: The number of singers can be less depending on the number of trained voices present. Likewise, fewer strings may be adequate depending on the quality of the players.