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Martin Dalby tryptich (1977) 20'
Fl Hn 2 Tpt Trb Tu Vib Mar
Commissioned by: University of Glasgow
First performed on: 28 Apr 1977
First performed by: Nigel Boddice Brass Ensemble
First performed at: Glasgow University
Almost A Madrigal takes its name from Quasi un Madrigale by the Italian poet Salvatore Quasimodo. the poem talks about human relationships. Almost A Madrigal then is a gentle piece very simply conceived (although in its simplicity it contains musical complexities) and in this simplicity the writing is truly devoid of the effects and procedures usually found in modern scores. The music is almost entirely laid out in 4/4 and except for introducing a little colour through the use of a variety of brass mutes and some flutter tonguing, nothing is asked of the solo flute, two trumpets, horn, trombone, vibraphone and marimba other than conventional playing.
The intention is towards a purity of style; that purity found in the music of Palestrina, for example. Indeed, the music derives from the language of Palestrina and in particular one motet: Quam Pulchra Es.
Quam pulchra es, et quam decora, How beautiful thou art, O dearest
charissima, in deliciis. Statura tua one, how graceful and lovely. Thy
assimilata est palmae, et ubera tua stature rivals that of the palm tree,
botris. Dixi: ascendam in palmam, and thy breasts the clustering vine.
et apprehendam fructus eius, et I shall climb up into the palm tree,
erunt ubera tua sicut botri vineae: and pick its fruit. Your breasts will be
et odor oris tui sicut odor malorum. like the fruit of the vine, your breath as sweet as apples.
Quam Pulchra Es is one of twenty nine of Palestrina's settings from the Song of Songs. If one accepts either of two allegories, the Jewish one that the Song of Songs represents God's love for Israel, or the Christian one where the Song of Songs represents Christ's love for his bride, the Church, then it is appropriate to call Palestrina's settings motets. If you prefer a simpler interpretation that the Song of Songs tells of the adoration between a man and a woman, then Quam Pulchra Es is in itself almost a madrigal.
There are notes from Quam Pulchra Es in Almost A Madrigal but the taste of the music is drawn more from Palestrina's general style and language, as well as the language of earlier music. You may also perceive echoes of other composers associated with lovers Ñ Messaien, Wagner, Strauss and towards the end there is the beginnings of a love song Ñ well, almost a love song.