Oratio Horarum



Played by the gamUT Contemporary Music Ensemble at the University of Toronto, February 4, 2017, as part of the Via Italia concert, New Music Festival – flute, clarinet, saxophone, percussions, piano, accordion, acoustic guitar, violin and cello. Featuring Ian Sabourin, countertenor and Prof. Gary Kulesha, conductor.

“Oratio Horarum – Miserere” is an anxious prayer and a cry of overwhelming fear of one’s destiny. The anxiety is first portrayed in the reaction to the name of God by the ensemble’s laughter using onomatopoeic figures, symbolizing the profound unease of the world and the incapability of men to worship God. The unfolding of the piece indeed illustrates the inner fear of one who knows his awkwardness and misery, yet supplicates God not to look upon him with the weight of his sins. The end of the gesture brings a timid Amen still tainted with anxiety but looking with hope to the promised mercy.

A buildup of fourths and fifths leads to a statement of the name of God from the countertenor, followed by an elongated arsis using projected rhythmic figures in which a person’s inner evil, among other realities, is portrayed by the audacious roar of the tambour à corde (lion’s roar), and which ends with a whispered remark by the guitar. The two subsequent variations follow the same pattern, culminating in the Amen. View the score here.

Throughout the piece, the stylistic predetermination of the countertenor struggles against the apparent hostility of its harmonic surroundings. As Salvatore Sciarrino pointed out during the premiere of the piece, “the material we heard is not transformed but only articulated,” to which I add: the material is certainly predetermined, yet empirical, espousing the proposition-reaction-reconciliation dialectic.



All material © 1996-2017  Francis P Ubertelli.