In Nomine R.
- Stefano Gervasoni
Composed for ensemble recherche in 2001 for eight instruments ( flute, English horn, clarinet, percussion, piano and string trio), it is part of a collection of reelaborations of forty composers inspired by the Renaissance concept of In Nomine.
In Nomine was the title given in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to a genre of instrumental compositions based on the Gregorian chant Gloria tibi Trinitas and an extract of a mass written around 1520 by English organist and composer John Taverner (c. 1490–1545). These were polyphonic compositions (often set for four or five voices) for viol consorts, lute or keyboard instruments.
The cantus firmus was held by an instrumental voice (often the viol), while other instruments were written in imitative counterpoint. In the Benedictus of the mass, In Nomine Domini is a counterpoint to four voices, and the cantus firmus is entrusted to the altus.
In the first part of In Nomine R. (A, Prestissimo, mormorando), the viola retains the function of the tenor (a series of very quick notes at the beginning of the piece pick up the cantus firmus of the mass) and guide for the other instruments, as expressly indicated in the score: “Each instrument performs its series of notes as quickly as possible and asynchronously with respect to the others; only the general breaths—very short!—will be synchronous and coordinated by the viola. All instruments then play con la viola: they will interrupt the execution of their series of notes for a moment, when the viola asks for it, and then will immediately resume them from the note following the interruption. The section stops when the first instrument has reached the end of its series of notes; the other instruments will stop immediately leaving the rest of the row unexecuted.”
In section B (Liberamente, “each instrument follows its own heartbeat”), it is the flute—then the soprano clarinet in D—that acts as the tenor, and the sound space becomes more rare ed. In this section and in section D, the letters of the ensemble’s name, “RECHERCHE”, are found in the notes stressed by some instruments: for example, the musetta (an oboe pitched in E at) plays E, C and H (B at), while the “R”s are reproduced from the sounds of the güiro, the vibraslap, and the cuíca (which can replace the lion’s roar indicated in the score). The name of the ensemble becomes the word for a quest: Recherche – ricercare. A word that has a rondo structure, the same form that can be found in the piece: the sections ABCDEF make up a rondo-like form: AXA1XA2 coda.
In section C, the resumption of the Prestissimo, parlando from the beginning assigns the role of the tenor to the violin, and in section E the cello becomes the guiding instrument. It is nel tempo del respiro (breathing tempo) that the sounds will take their leave, following the physiological rhythm of every musician’s breathing in and out.
In the final section, the note D (re, in Italian, the same syllable that can be found in recherche and recercar), which is also the mode of the cantus firmus, is performed by the flute and the piano, while the cantus firmus is sung in hocket by the strings with the bow making a rattling sound that imitates the R sound (as is written in the score: “the bow is very pressed and pulled slowly, the sound is shelled, produced by small impulses”). In the three cantus firmus presentations in heterophonic form by all the instruments (the Prestissimo sections), the melodic range becomes increasingly compressed. The cantus firmus retains its melodic profile but the intervals become increasingly narrow around the note D, which acts as a magnetic pole. So ends the piece: with the cantus firmus reduced to a single note D (re), becoming a symbol of a journey to do and redo, of re-search (the Ricercare). The coda can now begin...
Stefano Gervasoni and Grazia Giacco