Creation place and date:
Festival “Sinfonia en Périgueux” at the Cathedral of Saint-Étienne-de-la-Cité, Périgueux,
France, August 29, 2017.
Performers: Conductor: Patrick Cohën-Akenine / Soprano: Maïlys de Villoutreys / Les Folies françoises
Running time: ca. 30′
Instrumentation: Soprano / 3 violins I / 3 Violins I / 2 Violas / 2 Cellos / 1 Double Bass / 1 Archlute / 1 Harpsichord
Patrick Cohen-Akenine commissioned me to set to music four sonnets attributed to composer Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741). These are the same sonnets, which he used as the basis for his series of violin concertos entitled The Four Seasons (1725). The idea of the commission was to perform these new pieces as preludes to each of The Four Seasons, thus creating a concert program which mixed baroque and contemporary music, thematically unified by the sonnets. I composed the song cycle Paesaggi Corporei (Body Landscapes), with the same instrumentation used by the Folies françoises to play The Four Seasons: three first violins, three second violins, two violas, two cellos, one double bass, and continuo (Italian harpsichord and archlute). Additionally, all of these instruments are period instruments. In Paesaggi Corporei, the soprano sings and sometimes recites the sonnets.
In this song cycle, the string orchestra often has the function of articulating polyphonic textures that serve as a sonic metaphor to the notions of foliage and nature. The two violas often create the impression of movement in the middle register of the orchestra. Inspired by Vivaldi's masterpieces, I sometimes explored the possibilities of several violins playing as soloists. At moments, the archlute leads ensemble subsections of plucked strings that contribute to the timbral richness of the composition. The use of metal and wood mutes on the strings, as well as the use of prepared harpsichord also create timbral richness.
As to the relationship between text and music, the intention of Paesaggi Corporei was to differentiate each season by setting each sonnet in a different way: sections that explore the phonemes of key words, sections where the text is read, or sections with an intimate and lyrical singing of text. Using the technique of “word painting,” I created sound images of certain words by manipulating their phonetic and rhythmic characteristics.