Astonishing and haunting the little match girl passion sets Andersen’s fable in the form of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. In Lang’s own words, ‘the suffering of the Little Match Girl has been substituted for Jesus’, elevating […] her sorrow to a higher plane’.
David Lang (1957) is one of America's most performed composers. Many of his works resemble each other only in the fierce intelligence and clarity of vision that inform their structures. His catalogue is extensive, and his opera, orchestra, chamber and solo works are by turns ominous, ethereal, urgent, hypnotic, unsettling and very emotionally direct. Much of his work seeks to expand the definition of virtuosity in music — even the deceptively simple pieces can be fiendishly difficult to play
and require incredible concentration by musicians and audiences alike.
The Andersen fable is dark, one of those children's stories that still startles in its brutality. The little girl is sent out by her abusive father on New Year's Eve to sell matches. While she tries unsuccessfully to sell matches on the street she warm and distract herself by lighting matches, which summon comforting memories of her grandmother's house on Christmas morning. As she slowly freezes to death, the memories and visions become more vivid until they envelop her. She is found dead in
the morning, clutching a handful of burnt-out matches but wearing a beatific smile.
Sound world of The little match girl passion reminds on atmosphere in Renaissance sacred music or English madrigals. Work is a kind of parable, drawing a religious and moral equivalency between the suffering of the poor girl and the suffering of Jesus.
Oratorio for four voices – soprano, alto, tenor, and bass – and percussion.
text by David Lang after H. C. Andersen, H. P. Paull, Picander and St. Matthew
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