New work for strings

A few days ago I hit the double bar on The Red Book of Montserrat, a new work for string orchestra. Commissioned by the Philadelphia Sinfonia, a wonderful youth orchestra in town, the complete five-movement suite will be premiered by them in the spring of 2013 at the Kimmel Center. The parts are extracted and bowings are now being wrestled over.

More on the piece later as the program notes come together, but I’ll briefly describe it as settings of five of the ten songs from the Llibre Vermell de Montserrat, the 14th-century book of music from the monastery at Montserrat, Spain. It is a holy site of pilgrimage with a shrine to the Virgin.

The tunes are well-known to early-music aficionados and played often in various guises by many ensembles. This is my attempt to see how they may dance in a string orchestra, one of the many challenges having been to resist the employment of percussion. It’s about 20 minutes long, and we’re discussing completing the entire set of ten.

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