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Lang: Little Match Girl Passion Hybrid SACD - DSD, Import

3.7 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Lang: The Little Match Girl Passion
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Audio CD, Hybrid SACD - DSD, Import, June 9, 2009
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall especially for Paul Hillier and Theatre of Voices, David Lang's The Little Match Girl Passion was awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Music. Setting Hans Christian Andersen's fable in the format of Bach's St. Matthew Passion, Lang elevates the suffering of the little match girl with poignant, evocative music. Lang's piece is scored for four voices and a few percussion instruments, played by the singers. They sing the sad story of a little girl who freezes to death selling matches on the street during a cold winter's night. In notes Lang wrote to accompany the Carnegie Hall premiere last October, he says he was drawn to Andersen's story because of how opposite aspects of the plot played off each other. 'The girl's bitter present is locked together with the sweetness of her past memories, ' Lang says. 'Her poverty is always suffused with her hopefulness. There's a kind of naive equilibrium between suffering and hope.'

Review

I don't think I've ever been so moved by a new, and largely unheralded, composition as I was by David Lang's Little Match Girl Passion, which is unlike any music I know. --Tim Page - Pulitzer Prize Juror
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Product Details

  • Performer: Theatre of Voices, Ars Nova Copenhagen
  • Conductor: Hillier
  • Composer: Lang
  • Audio CD (June 9, 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Hybrid SACD - DSD, Import
  • Label: HARMONIA MUNDI
  • ASIN: B0027YUK6G
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #105,931 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
I bought the Little Match Girl Passion out of curiosity because I've been + - about some of David Lang's music in the past. I wouldn't have been surprised if it had been OK, but not good enough to keep. But it was great. It sounds like "minimalists meet the middle ages" but that doesn't really allow a full description of the original sounds and vocal usage in the piece. It has formal reminders of the Bach passions. It includes a direct correlation of the Little Match Girl's death with Jesus' suffering and death. But it also has obvious acquaintance with Schutz, Lassus and the Play of Daniel. And it still sounds modern with a nod to John Tavener. The percussion players are perfect and voices are really skilled in managing their music. Who would ever think of using one of the most emotionally manipulating cheesy stories of all time as an oratorio text? Then, who could present it in a way that uses elevated classical presentation while slowly working its way to a very emotionally effective end. And it's great to listen to, even if you don't know the text or the story. It's a very effective piece of music on its own terms. It should catch on with smaller new music groups and I think it might work very well in church performances. (It would be a lot more inspiring than most of the junk that gets played in churches.) Buy it, even if you never listen to new music.
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David Lang and musicians/singers have created a really unique piece of music. The first time I heard it was on the radio and I wasn't aware I was hearing the closing portion of the piece but was instantly interested in what was going on. The choice of the Little Match Girl story as the basis for this work is very compelling and the vocal arrangements and overall composition compliment and even enhance the storyline in a sad and profound way. It bears listening in a quiet and contemplative space but is well worth the commitment.
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This CD is one of my most prized in my collection of over a 1000. No wonder it won the Pulitzer. Take the ringing overtones of Arvo Part's tintinnabulism and blend with Robert Ashley's unique and beautiful contemporary opera works such as Improvement and you begin to understand what might have influenced Lang to compose this masterpiece. Indeed this is a modern day masterpiece.

"Tintinnabuli (singular. tintinnabulum) (from the Latin tinnabulae, of bells) is a compositional style created by the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. Pärt first introduced this new style in two works: Für Alina (1976) and Spiegel Im Spiegel (1978). This simple style was influenced by the composer's mystical experiences with chant music. Musically, Pärt's tintinnabular music is characterized by two types of voices, the first of which (dubbed the "tintinnabular voice") arpeggiates the tonic triad, and the second of which moves diatonically in stepwise motion. The works often have a slow and meditative tempo, and a minimalist approach to both notation and performance." This characterization is excerpted from Wikipedia. I remember the jacket notes from Tabula Rasa of tintinnabulum emphasizing the ringing overtones of bells implied (but not explicit) in the music. Listen to Little Match Girl and see if you can glimpse this notion here as well, but of course in Lang's work the overtones are explicit, but nevertheless elevating.Tabula Rasa

Listen to Mr. George Payne on Robert Ashley's Improvement Opera CD to see what I mean for parallels with this modern opera.
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I don't entirely know how I stumbled across this piece, likely from an Amazon suggestion. What I do know is that I started streaming it on Spotify, and had ordered the disc by somewhere around the second track. I love folk tales, and am intimately familiar with HCA's tale of the Little Match Girl. The text that Lang uses is the 1872 translation by Susannah Mary Paull. Likely a combination of the language of the time as well as attitudes toward translations, Paull's telling of the story is already a lovely little tragedy to work through. Long, tangled, flowery sentences abruptly shutter, much as the light does when our protagonist's matches burn out. It's a short piece, and emotive, but never have I reacted to the words on page as I have hearing them set as Lang did. Tracks alternate between audience/bystander/outsider/whatever-you-want-to-call-them reaction type pieces, which are slower, more contemplative, and typically a bit sadder, and then the pieces of the story itself which are performed with more energy and less background instrumentation. The instrumentation in the piece is entirely percussion, performed as an additional duty by the vocalists. It's sparse, but adds great depth to the piece, making it far more listenable (to these ears) than a purely choral piece, a madrigal, what-have-you. That sort of thing requires of me a very specific mood and yen for sound, whereas this piece offers up something for casual listening, attentiveness, and any fluid state between. The opening track lures us in with bass drums, which then stay away until we wrap up, becoming appropriate for a funeral march. Some concussive force to hit your heart, already bruised by the emotive voices relaying the tragic narrative.Read more ›
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