Based on “Canto VII” of Dante’s Paradiso. Premiered by Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic in Zlin, Czech Republic, and performed by many professional and community orchestras in the United States.


for string orchestra; 2(2=picc).2.2.2 / / 2 perc / str
7 min.

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Program Notes

Hosannas of the Second Heaven is the third of my works to be inspired by The Divine Comedy. In this case I turned to the third volume, “Paradiso,” perhaps the least read but certainly the sunniest. How to express the joy of souls in Paradise, perpetually in the presence of God? Not timidly. Dante’s conception is a place of profound joy but also resounding music, great energy, and very physical imagery. This passage refers to Justinian, a sixth-century Christian Roman emperor of Constantinople, a man of action. The image of a spinning soul bursting with light and music, drawing sparks into his vortex, proved fertile material for my imagination.

The music is constructed in a musical equivalent of terza rima, the poetic form that Dante created for his epic poem. Dante’s rhyme scheme is aba bcb cdc . . . so in the music, I alternate distinct musical ideas in just this way, sometimes as jarring juxtapositions, sometimes in a seamless flow. Through the opening swirls, a rhythmic motive derived from the word ‘hosanna’ emerges, and soon a long-breathed melody, in chant-like whole steps, intones the rhythms of the three-line Latin hymn cited above. The music proceeds through moods now graceful, now athletic; and as the hymn returns, the whole mass of swirling sound ascends, recedes, and vanishes.

Hosannas of the Second Heaven was first performed and recorded by the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic in the Czech Republic in November 2001.

—Theodore Wiprud

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