Nathan: LUMEN/Omaggio a Gesualdo

Program Note

The music that begins tonight’s program is one element of a work by four collaborating artists.

Inspired by newly inaugurated Pope Francis’s affinity for light as a metaphor for change, LUMEN abstracts and re-contextualizes an act of spiritual contemplation, in keeping with a secular regard for the Pope’s palpable sense of hope.

- Catherine Wagner (Artist), Thomas Kelley (Architect), Eric Nathan, Loretta Gargan (Landscape Architect)


"Omaggio a Gesualdo" (2013) is inspired by Gesualdo's madrigal "Ahi, disperata vita" from Madrigali a cinque voci Libro terzo (1594). It uses Gesualdo's work as a model, recasting his gestures and musical motives in my own language, while loosely adhering to the form of his work. I have long been an admirer of Gesualdo's music, especially his use of harmony and jarring chord progressions that keep his work sounding as modern today as it did four hundred years ago. In revisiting Gesualdo's music for this homage, I noticed a kinship in Gesualdo's approach to harmony with my own – he frequently links distantly related chords in succession, while I frequently combine disparate chords in superimposition, creating new composite harmonies. My homage features these superimposed harmonies at the forefront.

The music of Gesualdo’s madrigals are inseparable from the texts he sets, as Gesualdo is known for his frequent use of “text painting.” Similarly, my work is inspired by the images, gestures and meaning of the text. Please find the text reprinted below:

"Ahi, disperata vita"

Ahi, disperata vita,
Che fuggendo il mio bene,
Miseramente cade in mille pene!
Deh, torna alla tua luce alma e gradita
Che ti vuol dar aita!

English translation:

Ah, desperate life,
Which, whilst fleeing from my loved one,
fallst miserably into a thousand torments!
Oh, turn to your sweet and gracious light
which wants to give you comfort.

The work is dedicated to Tera Younger in loving memory.

- Eric Nathan