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REGINA COELI A 8
A reflection on Victoria
Regina Coeli à 8 was commissioned by ORA to be a companion work to Victoria’s own eight-part setting of the same text. Having myself, earlier in my career, already set this Marian Antiphon as an extended choral-orchestral suite following the form of Mozart’s version, I intentionally had to reject the memory of that more youthful work and its catchy tunes in order to create something new and fresh for ORA, and the incredible singing artists who comprise their roster. As the text is short, I decided not to paint the text literally, but rather to use the sounds of the text to create an atmosphere of the heavenly host. Victoria’s motet setting makes particular use of high voices, and in emulating his vocal orchestration, this compositional direction seemed right. I also set out to compose a virtuoso work that could serve as a good opener, or closer of a show or liturgical event.
The work is set in six large sections, the first two of which are connected and repeat, much in the manner of an “A” section of a Bach chorale. In this opening invocation, the music is minimalistic and murmuring with a wide range of dynamic contrasts. It’s like the churning of angelic goo, from which great exclamations of joy occasionally emerge. The next section winks to the Victoria setting by placing Victoria’s own music in one of the vocal lines as a cantus firmus against which strict “stile antico” renaissance-like imitative polyphony is placed. The score then engages the singers in a bit of aleatoric fun, where, particularly in the very last section, the high voices take on the role of the ancient catholic “angelus,” ringing out peals of joy in an imitation of change-ringing bells. The aleatoric, or improvisatory sections frame a very human utterance of “ora pro nobis” as the piece’s energetic music briefly rests as the words plead for intercession. The work ends in a triumphant D major, but fades out in a return to the heavenly swirl of chattering angels and archangels.
This commission has been generously supported by Barbara & John Vogelstein and Tamar and Dov Kahane.
Named one of New York City’s “10 Imagination-Grabbing, Trailblazing Artists of 2014” by WQXR, music director Julian Wachner continues to enjoy an international profile as conductor, composer and keyboard artist. Wachner’s extensive catalogue of original compositions has been variously described as “jazzy, energetic, and ingenious,” (Boston Globe), having “splendor, dignity, outstanding tone combinations, sophisticated chromatic exploration…a rich backdrop, wavering between a glimmer and a tingle...,” (La Scena Musicale) being “a compendium of surprises,” (Washington Post) and as “bold and atmospheric,” while having “an imaginative flair for allusive text setting,” and noted for “the silken complexities of his harmonies” (New York Times). The American Record Guide noted that, “Wachner is both an unapologetic modernist and an open-minded eclectic – his music has something to say.”