Dreams that reach across the heavens
In OURANIA: Dreams that reach across the heavens, The Esoterics features eight choral works that explore the concept of ‘the heavens.’ Named for the Greek muse of astronomy, OURANIA ranges in scope from the precise calculations of science, to the lavish polyphony of late Romanticism, and the angelic inspiration of Biblical imagery – offering several perspectives on how we have come to understand the sun, moon, and stars. Included in this recording are Richard Strauss’ 16-part choral tone poems Zwei Gesänge [Two songs] (Op 34): Der abend [The evening], Friedrich von Schiller’s description of Phæbus Apollo, whose chariot draws the sun to setting; and Hymne, Friedrich Rückert’s proclamations of celestial ecstasy, in which the heavens join Jacob as he celebrates the return of his prodigal son.
Also featured on this recording are two works by The Esoterics’ founder Eric Banks, and these highlight the intersection between the ‘hard science’ of astronomy (Banks’ course of study while at Yale) with music. In hisOnomata planêtôn, a choral intonation of the planets and moons in the solar system, the score is based entirely on the comparative mass, velocity, and period of revolution of these heavenly bodies. Banks’ second piece, Tabula siderum zodiaco, draws a similar parallel between music and astronomy, as he chorally maps the 928 stars of the zodiac, by superimposing the twelve constellations of the zodiac upon the twelve key signatures of the “circle of fifths.”
Further illuminating the connection between the muse of astronomy and choral song are two pieces by The Esoterics’ composer in residence, Donald Skirvin. Skirvin’s Song of Apollo and Hymn to the moon both set the poetry of Shelly (who, in turn, translated Homer’s Greek verse) and describe the respective deities who preside over the sun and moon. Triumf att finnas till [Triumph to exist] a vigorous choral romp by Danish composer Bo Holten, embraces the sun as a symbol of universal opposites: the marker of time, the enemy of life, and the source of all nourishment. OURANIA is rounded out by the iridescent cycle Hypostasis by the German composer Heinrich Poos, which captures the amazement and subsequent devotion that inspired Jacob after his Biblical dream of the celestial ladder, replete with the host of angels, and the face of God.
|1||Der Abend (1897)||Richard Strauss|
|2||Song of Apollo (2001/2006)||Donald Skirvin|
|3||Triumf att finnas till (1995)||Bo Holten|
|4||Tabula siderum zodiaco (2002)||Eric Banks|
|5||Onomata planêtôn (2002)||Eric Banks|
|6||Hymn to the moon (2001/2006)||Donald Skirvin|
|Hypostasis vel somnium Jacob (1994)||Heinrich Poos|
|14||Hymne (1897)||Richard Strauss|