Red Note Ensemble's May tour to focus on Salvatore Sciarrino's Infinito Nero
While ecstasy may well mean different things to different people, in the context of Red Note Ensemble’s May tour it is all about Italian composer Salvatore Sciarrino and his Infinito Nero. Based on the visions, or ecstasies, of early 17th century Florentine mystic, St Maria Maddalena de’Pazzi, it is subtitled ‘an ecstasy in one act.’
‘It’s an incredibly imaginative piece,’ says conductor Garry Walker. ‘The story is amazing, all about this woman from one of Florence’s wealthiest families, who even as a teenager had remarkable religious visions.’ The ecstasies kept on happening and words would fly out of her mouth so fast that it needed eight novice nuns at a time to write them down. She became a nun herself at the age of 16 and a saint after her death.
‘The music inhabits a mystical world,’ says Walker, ‘somewhere between reality and the dream of sleep. The first few minutes of the music are just sleepy noises, using strings and wind.’ Red Note’s performance of Infinito Nero will be the first in Scotland, the only other in the UK being at the Aldeburgh Festival in 2003, five years after its premiere in Germany. ‘I’ve always been interested in Sciarrino’s music,’ says Walker, ‘after meeting him many years ago in Montepulciano. He’s a fascinating character and the music is very demanding. On the surface, it looks like it would go together quickly, but to get it really precise is quite difficult.’
Alongside Infinito Nero, Red Note programme another piece by Sciarrino, Le Voci Sottovetro, ‘voices behind glass.’ ‘They are basically his rescorings of motets by Renaissance composer Gesualdo,’ says Walker. ‘He was a bit off-the-wall, a mad guy who murdered his wife and her lover after catching them in flagrante and then became a priest. The motets are breathtakingly beautiful.’
Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh, Thu 12 May; RSAMD, Glasgow, Fri 13 May.