William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 51 describes the pain of separation from the loved one caused by a journey that the protagonist has to make. In the poem the poet’s old and lazy horse is portrayed as the writer’s brother-in-arms in the struggles of love, and functions as a vehicle for both the reluctant, real departure and the future anticipated joy and extremely swift return. Dealing with these two time levels, the depressing and slowly passing present and the promising and intense future is the narrative leitmotif in Shakespeare’s pathetic love poem, which is appropriately flavoured with a slight irony.
Virtaperko’s setting of Sonnet 51 for male choir (TTBB) opens with the introduction, which portrays the unwillingness of departure using long hymn-like modal melody lines that are accompanied by the static stomping of the horse’s hoof. From Shakespeare’s textual motifs, the subjective perception of time has been raised to a musical focus, as the subtle changes of intensity of harmony, rhythm and metre reflect the concepts of the heavyweight sadness of the present and the accelerated, swift return of the future.
Sonnet 51 involves many individual solos and for the most of the time the voices are subdivided. The text is sung in Finnish (translation by Kirsti Simonsuuri, 2004) and the piece lasts 4 minutes. Sonnet 51 was commissioned by Polyteknikkojen Kuoro (The Polytech Choir).
for male choir (TTBB) with 2 woodblocks
The Polytech Choir (photo: Johan Kondratjeff)
extract pages of Sonetti 51
Sonnet 51 performed by The Polytech Choir (Saara Aittakumpu, cond.). Premiere performance, Concert Hall of The Helsinki Concervatory of Music, 13 May 2015.
13 May 2015, The Polytech Choir (Saara Aittakumpu, cond.) at the Concert Hall of The Helsinki Concervatory of Music, Helsinki, Finland
Polyteknikkojen Kuoro (The Polytech Choir)