My song is Love Unknown: sacred anthem for soloists, double chorus and organ (17 minutes)

Pott, Francis ORCID: and Crossman, Samuel (2003) My song is Love Unknown: sacred anthem for soloists, double chorus and organ (17 minutes). [Composition]

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My Song is Love Unknown [Text: Samuel Crossman, 1624-1683]

This anthem was commissioned by the Dean and Chapter of Winchester Cathedral for the Southern Cathedrals Festival held there in 2002. It sets all the verses of Samuel Crossman's poem but one (commonly omitted also when the words are sung metrically as a hymn). The music begins with offbeat repeated chords prompted -not inappropriately -by the opening to Richard Strauss's tone poem, Death and Transfiguration. In its early stages only trebles and altos are heard. The sequential flow of Crossman's poem is soon disrupted with particular dramatic ends in mind. After a seemingly anxious harmonic distortion of the opening chords, the word 'crucify' arises initially as a mere mutter from the lower voices, so timed as to afford assonance with other words in the upper parts and thus remain barely discernible, as if only imagined. In due course, however, cries of 'Hosanna' find themselves on a collision course with a rising tide of 'Crucify', during which the 'Hosanna' faction gradually loses heart and, sheep-like, defects until a single treble voice -plaintively daring to repeat the 'offending' word -is swept aside by a murderous outcry. 'Crucify' recurs as a further angry climax before the opening music returns, this time expanding into an extended polyphonic final section for double choir and SATB soloists. The principal climax of the work subsides into a form of epilogue, crowned sorrowfully by a treble soloist to whom the music in toto has by now presented many dramatic and emotional challenges. The anthem ends in the key and mood of its opening.

My Song is Love Unknown was composed in memory of Michael Renton (1934-2001), master designer, engraver and lettering craftsman, beloved of many in the Winchester Cathedral community; a Christian, true and humble artist, to whose rare order Thomas Traherne surely referred when he wrote: '...Whosoever will profit in the mystery of Felicity, must see the objects of his happiness, and the manner how they are to be enjoyed, and discern also the powers of his soul by which he is to enjoy them'.

F.P., 2002
[Prefatory note as displayed in the published score.]

Item Type: Composition
Additional Information: Reviews of the performance on CD: MusicWeb International, 2003: …The longest and most discursive piece is My song is Love Unknown by Francis Pott… A very strong and atmospheric work … The whole is built to a searing, titanic climax before a superbly wrought polyphonic choral passage of great complexity and rich texture. …A magnificent and disturbing work. International Record Review, 2003: Francis Pott’s two works show an altogether different category of mind. … My Song is Love Unknown is …a highly dramatic work, slowly expanding over a large scale, making the fullest use of the choral resources available and with a very challenging organ part. …I am very much aware of a tremendous musical mind – definitely worth hearing. Classical News, 2003: Pott’s impassioned My Song is Love Unknown stands out as a small masterpiece of choral writing. Classic FM Magazine, 2003: Pott’s My Song is Love Unknown emerges as a miniature masterpiece. BBC Music Magazine, 2003: …Altogether more challenging is Francis Pott’s My Song is Love Unknown, in which the verbal felicities of Crossman’s poem, familiar in John Ireland’s metrical setting, take second place to a powerfully dramatic and extended treatment of the text.
Subjects: Music
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Depositing User: Rod Pow
Date Deposited: 24 Jul 2012 11:23
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2021 07:16

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