Eternal Light ImageSunday Nov.2 at 3.00pm: GEELONG – Basilica of St Mary of the Angels 136 Yarra St, Geelong. Tickets $30 and $25

Saturday Nov.8 at 3.00pm: MACEDON – Church of the Resurrection, corner of Honour Ave and Mt Macedon Rd, Macedon
Sunday Nov.9 at 3.00pm: MELBOURNE – Our Lady of Mount Carmel216 RichardsonSt, Middle Park            

Tickets $40, $35 and $25
Click on your desired venue above to BOOK

Pirated by Stanley Kubrick for the soundtrack of his 2001: A Space Odyssey, Ligeti’s LUX AETERNA (ETERNAL LIGHT) certainly sounds as if it is not of this earth. Written for 16 unaccompanied voices, the work is rarely heard due to its extreme difficulty. A continuous sustained cluster chord, it is perceived by some as a meditation, by others as the soundtrack to a nightmare. Perhaps this is another manifestation of the ‘harmony of the spheres’ that was talked about in Palestrina’s time. But where Palestrina relies on consonance, Ligeti takes dissonance as his norm.

Gioseffo Zarlino, a contemporary of Palestrina, hypothesised that the mathematics of music mirrored the mathematics of the cosmos and suggested that this was evident in Palestrina’s well-balanced harmony. The ‘harmony of the spheres’ theory has continued to fascinate philosophers and composers through the ages. Bruckner studied Palestrina’s work and consciously strove to duplicate his harmonic logic, re-interpreting it through the harmonic vocabulary of his own time in works such as Christus factus est. A theme, recurring in Bruckner’s work like a plainchant, is a reference to Palestrina’s repeated use of Gregorian chant in works such as the Mass Christi Aeterna Munera.

The theme of light and enlightenment through eternity follows the centuries through the remaining works on the program. The unaccompanied works from the 16th, 19th and 20th centuries (mentioned above) are complemented by works from the 17th and 18th centuries, accompanied by an orchestra of period instruments: In Bach’s Motet, the text, originally a Lutheran hymn, uses the word ‘light’ as a metaphor for faith. The work, performed at a funeral in 1740 is imbued with a powerful sense of optimism.

In Purcell’s dramatisation of Psalm 149, as in Pergolesi’s Magnificat, the text is brought to life through solos, duets and trios, contrasting with the full choir.

Pergolesi’s short career encompassed the extremes of success and failure. His opera L’Olimpiade so enraged its original Roman audience in 1735 that one enterprising listener hit the composer on the head with an orange. His Stabat Mater, written the following year, set the record as the most frequently printed work of the 18th century. His genius was recognised by JS Bach, who used this work as the model for Cantata 1083: Tilge, Höchster, meine Sünden. After his death from tuberculosis, Pergolesi’s music suddenly became so fashionable that publishers started attributing to him all sorts of works that he never wrote. The present Magnificat is one of the compositions that does seem to have been Pergolesi’s after all. It is cheerful, straightforward, diatonic and buoyant. At the very beginning the main theme – as the music’s original audiences would have realised – constitutes a long-drawn-out plainchant melody. Few moments in the entire choral literature can match, for sheer excitement, the return of this theme at the words ‘Sicut erat in principio’, elaborated this time, but accompanied by much the same surging Vivaldian string motifs as were heard before. Click here to watch.

Pergolesi did not need to seek permission to use a well-known 18th century tune in his Magnificat. Neither did Palestrina when he quoted a tune known to his 16th century audience. But Stanley Kubrick used and modified Ligeti’s music without his knowledge and without the necessarry copyright clearance. Ligeti sued Kubrick, seeking damages in the amount of one dollar, and explaining that it was the principle that mattered. He agreed to settle out of court in return for the properly acknowledged use of his music in later films. Kubrick, clearly still a fan, went on to include Ligeti’s music in the soundtracks for The Shining (1980) and Eyes Wide Shut (1999). Several other filmmakers also found Ligeti’s work appropriately atmospheric: Most recently, Lux Aeterna is heard in Godzilla (2014), where its other-worldly harmonies combine with the rush of air during the high-altitude military parachuting scene. Watch this on Youtube.

    • Giovanni Pierluigi Palestrina (c1525-94) – Missa aeterna Christi munera
    • Henry Purcell (1659-95) – O Sing unto the Lord (Z44)
    • Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) - O Jesus Christ mein’s Lebens Licht (BWV 118)
    • Györgi Ligeti (1923-2006) - Lux Aeterna – Eternal Light
    • Anton Bruckner (1824-96) - Christus factus est
    • Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710-36) – Magnificat, with a period instrument orchestra

Click on your desired venue below to BOOK:

Sunday November 2 at 3.00pm: GEELONG – Basilica of St Mary of the Angels 136 Yarra St, Geelong. Tickets $30 and $25

Saturday Nov.8 at 3.00pm: MACEDON – Church of the Resurrectioncorner of Honour Ave and Mt Macedon Rd, Macedon
Sunday Nov.9 at 3.00pm: MELBOURNE – Our Lady of Mount Carmel216 RichardsonSt, Middle Park            

Tickets $40, $35 and $25

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