Song of Songs for 16 voices and chamber orchestra
Song of Songs The Song of Songs has been the subject of theological and philosophical dispute for centuries, as people strive to define its meaning and place between the sacred and the profane. Deeply lyrical and erotic, the poem is also a great metaphor of the relation between man and God. Combining an epithalamium in praise of the bride with a bucolic and the poetics of psalms, it consists of a cycle of songs in monologue or dialogue form.By writing his Song of Songs for a 16-part vocal ensemble and orchestra, Penderecki joined the ranks of composers inspired by the poem, from John Dunstable and Palestrina to Stravinsky and Peter Maxwell Davies. Penderecki selected fragments of the first five songs, from which he omitted all action, all epic and dramatic elements, to create a homogeneous lyrical whole – a song of love. Vocal-instrumental sections alternate with orchestral intermezzos. The dramatic design of this piece resembles that of Ecloga VIII – after the introduction, the music builds up to culminate on the words hortus conclusus (“an enclosed garden, paradise”) approximately at the golden section point, after which the initial state is restored.Though the two compositions were written one after the other and are both inspired by ancient love lyrics, the musical language of Song of Songs contains many individual, unique elements, some of which even anticipate a qualitative change. The choral part introduces unconventional types of articulation, but sonoristic techniques do not dominate in this piece. The centre of gravity shifts toward traditional categories of musical beauty: euphony of sound and an evolutional development of narration.