in limine

Programme Note

in limine is based on the syllabic and verse structure of Eugenio Montale's (1896-1981) 1924 poem of the same name (provided below with William Arrowsmith's translation):

Godi se il vento ch'entra nel pomario
vi rimena l'ondata della vita:
qui dove affonda un morto
viluppo di memorie,
orto no era, ma reliquiario.

Il frullo che tu senti non è un volo,
ma il commuoversi dell'eterno grembo;
vedi che si trasforma questo lembo
di terra solitario in un crogiuolo.

Un rovello è di qua dall'erto muro.
Se procedi t'imbatti
tu forse nel fantasma che ti salva:
si compongono qui le storie, gli atti
scancellati pel giuoco del futuro.

Cerca una maglia rotta nella rete
che ci stringe, tu balza fuori, fuggi!
Va, per te l'ho pregato,--ora la sete
mi sarà lieve, meno acre la ruggine . . .

Rejoice when the breeze that enters the orchard
brings you back the tidal rush of life:
here, where dead memories
mesh and founder,
was no garden, but a reliquary.

That surge you hear is no whir of wings,
but the stirring of the eternal womb.
Look how this strip of lonely coast
has been transformed: a crucible.

All is furor within the sheer wall.
Advance, and you may chance upon
the phantasm who might save you:
here are tales composed and deeds
annulled, for the future to enact.

Find a break in the meshes of the net
that tightens around us, leap out, flee!
Go, I have prayed for your escape---now my thirst
will be slaked, my rancor less bitter . . .

The third of a set of pieces based on Montale's poetry, in limine (Latin: at the threshold) particularly takes its impetus from the imperatives of the poem: Rejoice, Look, Advance, Find, Leap, Flee, Go. These active verbs are countered, however, both in the poem and the music, by the static, timeless quality of the reliquary, the coast, the wall; the summer heat of Montale's native Liguria.

Also at work is a deliberate distortion of musical proportions: sections at the beginning are compressed to an unusual degree, they rush through material to the point where musical ideas are only hinted at, creating an almost schizophrenic musical atmosphere. Later, sections and material are stretched beyond their means, to the point where the musical fabric almost tears or bulges into ungainly shapes; like your reflection mutated in a hall of mirrors.

The composition of in limine was made possible by the support of the UK's Arts and Humanities Research Board.