'La Divina Commedia' – Hendrik de Boer
'La Divina Commedia' is the first contest piece for brass band written by composer Hendrik de Boer. It is based on Dante Aligheri's epic 'The Divine Comedy.' This work, written by the Florentine poet, is one of the renowned master pieces of Western literature. Dante describes in it his imaginary journey through the three realms of the hereafter: Hell ('Inferno'), Purgatory ('Purgatorio') and Heaven ('Paradiso'). The composition consists of five parts and has the same structure as Dante's epic: ABA-BCB-CDC-DED-EFE.
The composition starts on Good Friday of the year 1300. Dante is than 35 years old and in his own words "in the midst of his life path." He is lost in a dark forest, which is an allegory for a deep, personal crisis and possibly for the committing of suicide. The bugle plays the starting motive of the Gregorian hymn 'Media in vita in morte sumus' ('In the midst of life we are with death'). Dante is attacked by wild animals, which portray his sins: a panther (lust), a lion (pride) and a wolf (greed). He is saved by his childhood love, Beatrice, and his favourite poet from the classics, Virgil, who will point him the way towards salvation.
Virgil accompanies Dante on his way to Hell. They travel together through the nine realms of the underworld. The outer realms are inhabited by the deceased who did not manage to control their passions and lusts, while the inner realms are inhabited by the perpetrators of violence and deception. In the very deepest crypts off Hell Lucifer, the devil himself, is caught in ice. This part of the composition is mostly in minor and consists on the one hand of two fast parts in an agitato-tempo and on the other hand of a plaintive part in a tranquillo-tempo, which reminds us of the monodies, which became famous, for an important part thanks to Giulio Caccini.
When Dante and Virgil leave Hell, they are on an island in the southern hemisphere. The biggest part of the island contains a mountain with seven terraces: Purgatory. An angel with a blazing sword is awaits them at the port of Purgatory. He draws seven P’s (from peccato, sin) on Dante’s forehead with the sword, which is portrayed by seven clear strokes of the tubular bells.
In the second realm of the hereafter Dante and Virgil have to climb all terraces of Purgatory to do penance for their sins, before they will be able to reach the summit of the mountain, where they will find Paradise. From there an angel can bring them to actual Heaven. The musical motive of the climbing of the mountain is introduced by two short cadenzas of the euphonium and after that it is portrayed by a marcia funebre, which reminds us of the 'Via Appia' from Ottorino Resphigi’s 'Pini di Roma.'
While 'Inferno' is mostly composed in minor, we can already detect more passages in major in 'Purgatorio.' This reflects that in Hell the damned souls suffer not only the severe punishments, but also the disparity of hopelessness. In Purgatory the souls are also punished, but there they have the certainty that there will be an end to that punishment after which salvation will follow.
After they have climbed the mountain of Purgatory together Dante and Virgil's ways part, as the latter’s task has been fulfilled with reaching the earthly paradise. His task will be taken over by Beatrice; she will be Dante’s guide in Paradise.
Dante and Beatrice now undertake the journey from the earthly paradise to Heaven together. Through the nine realms of Heaven, each inhabited by a different kind of angels, they eventually reach Empyrean. 'Paradiso', which mainly consists of passages in major, is introduced by the cornets and trombones which play motives from two Gregorian hymns: 'In Paradisum deducant te angeli' ('May the angels guide thee to Paradise') and 'Requiem Aeternam dona eis Domine' ('Lord, give them eternal peace'). After this an energetic con spirito-passage follows, which portrays the journey through the realms of Heaven.
Eventually Dante will reach Empyrean, where God and the souls of the virtuous house together. He sees Mary, Jesus and in the end God himself. His journey is completed!
|Title||La Divina Commedia|
|Subtitle||based on Dante Aleghieri's 'Divine Comedy'|
|Composer||Hendrik de Boer|