The Passion of St. Cecilia

…Based on the legend of St. Cecilia, the piece uses the piano and orchestra against each other to depict the conflict between Cecilia and the society that condemned her, as well as together to express her calmer, meditative side. The coloristic effects, language and ideas are fresh and bold. [Shatin] has full grasp of her orchestral flavorings, and her sense of direction is always crystal clear. The work has beautiful sonorities yet an almost primitive character in its dramatic representation of conflict. [Shatin] uses a wall of orchestral sound in the first movement to portray society, from which the piano (as Cecilia) seems to rise. The second movement is mainly calm and lyrical; some of its harmonies are almost impressionist. The third builds to a striking finish as Henry pounds the piano with her forearms, perhaps depicting Cecilia’s behading. The ending is almost too abrupt, but the device is tremendously effective, almost making the listeners jump to their feet. ” –The Denver Post

“Featured was Judith Shatin’s new piano concerto, ‘The Passion of St. Cecilia.’ Soloist was Gayle Martin Henry, the impressive pianist for whom the work was written and to whom it is dedicated…At the outset, ‘Passion’ portrays the persecution of the Christian saint in an all-out chaotic conflict between solo instrument and orchestra. An uneasy truce gives way to magnificent meditation in the second movement. This is followed by a vigorous and affirmative finale, brilliantly dissonant with tone clusters played by the soloist with both forearms.

The work confirmed the excitement about current events in American music that I expressed here last month. Great and original things are happening in new music. The concerto also made a triumphant statement about women in music…”
–The Sunday Camera (Denver, CO)

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