Irae Variae (2003)
Performance: Joel Evans, oboe; Susan Seligman, cello; Shirley Hoffman Warren, piano
Variations on the Dies Irae of Thomas of Celano
“Irae Variae” is a suite of variations for oboe, cello and piano, based on the “Dies Irae” sequence for the Requiem mass, written in the 13th century and attributed to Thomas of Celano, an early disciple of St. Francis of Assisi.
The entire melody of the original sequence (with none of the repeats) is first presented in “Dies Irae Prelude” by the oboe, sparsely accompanied by arpeggiated piano chords.
In “Waltz,” the cello and piano play the first three segments of the sequence, rewritten as a stately waltz. In the repeat section, the oboe plays the entire sequence, over the original statement by cello and piano.
In “The Devil’s Chord” (so called because of the insistent use of the tritone – long considered to be an ‘evil’ interval – by the piano), the oboe again plays the entire sequence, this time in agitated 6/8 – 3/4. The piano and cello quote occasional fragments from the sequence, but play mostly unrelated accompaniment.
The final section, “Blue Irae,”
is a blues-inspired variation on the third segment of the sequence.