With its origins in the ancient Greek word for “contest” or ” struggle,” αγών was used to describe the writhing contortion of athletic competition, extreme physical striving, keen mental excitement, or even an exclamation of great joy. Only in the 17th Century did agonia begin to take on the connotations of suffering, torment, pain, or distress that we think of when we hear the word today. In its next extraordinary concert series, The Esoterics will present three modern choral masterworks inspired by medieval poetry on this theme: striving, suffering, and monumental effort, as well as and the promise of comfort, compassion, and reprieve.
AGONIA will begin with Alfred Schnittke’s Verses of repentance (Стихи покаянные), twelve movements composed in 1988 for the millennial celebration of Christianity’s arrival in Russia. The texts (including the quote at the top) come from a collection of anonymous Slavonic verses, with subjects ranging from original sin to arrogance, greed, hypocrisy, fratricide, mortal decay, grief, and the hope for salvation. Schnittke, one of the most controversial figures in Russian music history, composed this piece during his own spiritual journey from Judaism to Catholicism and Orthodoxy, in the midst of a series of strokes that would eventually paralyze him and take his life. His music is known for its sharp juxtaposition of various styles, a reflection of his mixed heritage — as the son of a Catholic and a Jew, he was raised in a German province of Communist Russia. Schnittke’s Verses are replete with what he described as Schattenklänge (“shadow sounds”), and wander mystically, as if possessed by musical spirits of the distant past, between darkness and light, chaos and order, defeat and victory.
Please join The Esoterics for one of these three performances of AGONIA:
24 Apr 2015 | 800pm | St Stephen’s Episcopal Church | 4805 NE 45th Street | Seattle
25 Apr 2015 | 730pm | Christ Episcopal Church | 310 North K Street | Tacoma
26 Apr 2015 | 300pm | Holy Rosary Catholic Church | 4142 42nd Avenue SW | West Seattle
TICKET PRICES: General admission is $25 at the door, or $22 when pre-ordered online. Student, senior, un(der)employed, and differently-abled tickets are available at $18 at the door, or $15 in advance.