Winter Cantata / Vinterkantate (1976) by Per Nørgård for a variable ensemble of soloist, mixed choir and instruments (minimum: vocalist and organ).
Programme Note: When in 1975 I had finished composing my 3rd Symphony (begun in 1973), I wrote three simple melodies for two psalm texts by Ole Sarvig: “The Year” and “Choral Hymn”. These three tunes were derived from the same material as the second movement of the 3rd Symphony and could be harmonized together in several different tempo relationships at the same time - like fractals – which inspired me to write several choral and instrumental works in the following decade based on these melodies: “Frost Psalm”, “Winter Cantata”, “ Winter Hymn”, “Cantica” and others. One of these ´Sarvig melodies´ is now included in the new Danish Hymnbook, under the title “Året”(The Year).
Ole Sarvig´s poem “Året” (The Year) is Danish, perhaps Scandinavian in character, but its symbolic atmosphere is global (now snow is covering the whole earth). The basic composition of this cantata – based on Sarvig´s many verses – was done by letting soloist, choir and instruments change in feelings and moods: from the almost silent, inward-looking beginning (I: Chorale dolorosa) to a dancelike and happy optimism (II: A heaven germ on winged foot thrust deep into the earth its root), followed by nightmarish tone rows as the “year-wheel of fortune” is turning (III: Sacrifice – The Year) and the temptations of the snake (IV: In Paradiso) – to the allegorical fights between egoism and altruism (V:The Cycle – Autumn. Purgatory) before the “waiting for a disaster”- atmosphere at the end of this choral Odyssé.
Winter Cantata was from the beginning (1976) designed as an open work, to be arranged by different combinations of soloists, choir and (different) instruments. The printed version by Per Nørgård and Ivan hansen for soloist, mixed choir and instruments (obo, violin, trombone, vibraphone/percussion and organ) is from 1990.
The work is available in both the (original) Danish version (“Vinterkantate”) and an English version (Winter Cantata), translated by Helen and Ole Sarvig. (Per Nørgård)