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Thread: The Little Match Girl Passion

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    Senior Member kg4fxg's Avatar
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    Default The Little Match Girl Passion

    This is such an interesting piece. Have you heard it? What do you think?

    For me it is another emotional piece that words cannot describe or ever do justice to the piece.


    Notes on the Work (http://www.carnegiehall.org/article/...mmissions.html)

    I wanted to tell a story. A particular story—in fact, the story of The Little Match Girl, by the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. The original is ostensibly for children, and it has that shocking combination of danger and morality that many famous children’s stories do. A poor young girl, whose father beats her, tries unsuccessfully to sell matches on the street, is ignored, and freezes to death. Through it all she somehow retains her Christian purity of spirit, but it is not a pretty story.

    What drew me to The Little Match Girl is that the strength of the story lies not in its plot but in the fact that all its parts—the horror and the beauty—are constantly suffused with their opposites. The girl’s bitter present is locked together with the sweetness of her past memories; her poverty is always suffused with her hopefulness. There is a kind of naive equilibrium between suffering and hope.

    There are many ways to tell this story. One could convincingly tell it as a story about faith or as an allegory about poverty. What has always interested me, however, is that Andersen tells this story as a kind of parable, drawing a religious and moral equivalency between the suffering of the poor girl and the suffering of Jesus. The girl suffers, is scorned by the crowd, dies, and is transfigured. I started wondering what secrets could be unlocked from this story if one took its Christian nature to its conclusion and unfolded it, as Christian composers have traditionally done in musical settings of the Passion of Jesus.

    The most interesting thing about how the Passion story is told is that it can include texts other than the story itself. These texts are the reactions of the crowd, penitential thoughts, statements of general sorrow, shock, or remorse. These are devotional guideposts, the markers for our own responses to the story, and they have the effect of making the audience more than spectators to the sorrowful events onstage. These responses can have a huge range—in Bach’s Saint Matthew Passion, these extra texts range from famous chorales that his congregation was expected to sing along with to completely invented characters, such as the “Daughter of Zion” and the “Chorus of Believers.” The Passion format—the telling of a story while simultaneously commenting upon it—has the effect of placing us in the middle of the action, and it gives the narrative a powerful inevitability.

    My piece is called The Little Match Girl Passion and it sets Hans Christian Andersen’s story The Little Match Girl in the format of Bach’s Saint Matthew Passion, interspersing Andersen’s narrative with my versions of the crowd and character responses from Bach’s Passion. The text is by me, after texts by Han Christian Andersen, H. P. Paulli (the first translator of the story into English, in 1872), Picander (the nom de plume of Christian Friedrich Henrici, the librettist of Bach’s Saint Matthew Passion), and the Gospel according to Saint Matthew. The word “passion” comes from the Latin word for suffering. There is no Bach in my piece and there is no Jesus—rather the suffering of the Little Match Girl has been substituted for Jesus’s, elevating (I hope) her sorrow to a higher plane.

    —David Lang


    The Little Match Girl Passion Con. Paul Hillier. Performed by Theatre of Voices (Harmonia Mundi)


    Fortunately for classical music, industry awards carry an air of legitimacy that’s often lacking from any pop Grammys or the Oscars. There’s no classical equivalent to the Recording Academy’s conclusion that in three of the last ten years, the Foo Fighters made the single finest rock album. In the case of David Lang’s 2008 Pulitzer-winning The Little Match Girl Passion, evidence of what drew the jury to honor this haunting work immediately springs from the speakers.

    The Bang on a Can cofounder looks to Bach’s St. Matthew Passion as the musical framework for Hans Christian Andersen’s story, replacing Jesus with the titular little girl, “elevating her sorrow to a higher plane,” the New Yorker explains in his notes to the Carnegie Hall commission. Andersen’s tale remains a horrifyingly adult morality play intended for children, in which a young, underdressed girl is sent out into the cold by her abusive father to sell matches in the street. Ignored by passersby, she huddles next to a house; with each match she strikes to warm herself, she has an exquisite vision of a glowing stove, a stuffed goose, a sparkling Christmas tree and, finally, as she freezes to death, her beloved grandmother.

    Four members of Hillier’s excellent Theatre of Voices ensemble offer constantly interweaving lines of text, commenting on the story in Greek-chorus fashion and playing each of the percussion instruments—glockenspiel, crotales, bass drum. The vocal work is stunning, with an early-Renaissance-like purity that brings an aural shimmer to Lang’s melancholy harmonies. Especially arresting is the “When it is time for me to go” movement, in which the stuttering evokes seemingly empathetic teeth-chattering by the performers. In the moving final eulogy, female voices despairingly chant to the little girl, “Rest soft…rest soft,” until all that’s left is the decay of sleigh bells.

    Nothing short of devastating, Match Girl deserves whatever trophies are thrown its way.



    Read more: http://chicago.timeout.com/articles/...#ixzz0Q3W6FaIQ
    No, it's a Bb. It looks wrong and it sounds wrong, but it's right - Vaughan Williams.

    Bill Carter, CPA

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    Senior Member andruini's Avatar
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    I haven't heard it but I'm a big fan of Bang on a Can and I loved what I heard of his release on Naxos, "Pierced". I'm dying to get my hands on this, though, and your post really maximized my interest.
    Life is a long lesson in humility.

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    Member michael walsh's Avatar
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    Andersen's Little Match Girl had a profound effect on me yet it was one of the earliest books I ever read.

    I never tried to analyse the story or indeed any of his tales as you and no doubt others have done. How much have I read since I first read that story? Enough to fill the British Library. Yet The Little Match Girl for sheer pathos and stickability outshines the lot.

    Andersen presents a mystery to me. Two mysteries in fact. As an adult and allowing for a change in the evolution of writing styles I find many of his stories intellectually demanding. I now marvel that as a pre-pubescent child I devoured his stories and never had a problem understanding them.

    Then, let's take The Emperor's Clothes. A great story but in terms of what is going on in the world today; the hypocrisy, the deceits and double dealing; falseness, political correctness, this story has far great significance now than ever before. Was Anderson poking fun at the hypocrisies of the time? If so, his way of doing it was masterful.

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    Quote Originally Posted by andruini View Post
    I haven't heard it but I'm a big fan of Bang on a Can and I loved what I heard of his release on Naxos, "Pierced". I'm dying to get my hands on this, though, and your post really maximized my interest.
    I'm listening to it right now at the link provided in the post.

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    Senior Member chillowack's Avatar
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    I'm afraid I don't understand why such a big deal is being made about this piece. What exactly is so special about it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by chillowack View Post
    I'm afraid I don't understand why such a big deal is being made about this piece. What exactly is so special about it?
    There's nothing great about it. Typical deviation from the great composers that actually warrant more profound conversation.

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