Tenebrae: The Shadow of Death

With only two cellos (down from the original 7 of the first movement) the musical options in this 6th movement are quite restricted. I had to focus on texture rather than harmony. The musical gesture that gives this movement its character is the portamento, a slight slide between notes. I first heard the possibilities of two cellos portamento-ing in Beth Orton’s “She Cries Your Name”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFZc4ax4tJs(music video) or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TnH52SkOdo (live). (Of course, there are also the famous sliding basses of Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side”:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KaWSOlASWc).

tenebraeUnfortunately, Finale playback conveys nothing of the portamento, so it just sounds like a string of notes. Sigh… If you want to read along, imagining the whole movement unfolding like a musical sigh, here’s the score: PDF.

The Shadow of Death: Matthew 27:45-54
45 From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 46 And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” 48 At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53 After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many.54 Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

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