March 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

Richard EINHORN Voices of Light (Inspired by the film The Passion of Joan of Arc)  Anonymous 4; with Susan Narucki (soprano); Corrie Pronk (Alto); Frank Hameleers (Tenor) and Henk van Heijnsbergen (bass-baritone). Netherlands Radio Choir; Netherlands Radio Philharmonic conducted by Steven Mercurio.  SONY SK 62006 [70:40]

Note: This is not a new release: this recording was made in 1995

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I am indebted to my colleague reviewer Gary S. Dalkin. He mentioned this album and especially the 'Pater Noster' from Voices of Light in his commentary about the film music of 1999 on Film Music on the Web.

Richard Einhorn's (b. 1952) varied compositions include numerous film scores. His Voices of Light is an opera/oratorio for voices and amplified instrumental ensemble in celebration of Joan of Arc. It was originally inspired by the great silent film, The Passion of Joan of Arc, which influenced the work of such filmmakers as Bergman, Fellini, Hitchcock and Scorsese. All the prints of this film were thought to have been consumed in a series of disastrous fires; but then, miraculously, an original print was found in Norway in 1981. However, Angels of Light can stand alone, without any visual images. The libretto is a patchwork of visions, fantasies and reflections assembled from various ancient sources, notably the writings of medieval female mystics like St Hildegard von Bingen, Blessed Angelo of Foligno and Marguerite d'Oingt.

It was only in 1920, nearly 500 years after her death that Joan of Arc (born in 1412) was declared a saint, the only saint who had been excommunicated and burnt at the stake.

In the middle of the Hundred Years War, much of France was occupied by the English and their Burgundian allies. Joan, an illitereate, virginal shepherd girl was called to a divine mission by angels. She persuaded Charles the uncrowned king of France to support her; she raised an army and destroyed the besieging armies around Orleans and went on to other victories that culminated in the coronation of Charles VII in Reims in 1429. However after she failed to take Paris, her fortunes declined and she was taken prisoner by the Burgundians, handed over to the English, tried by the inquisition, and tortured and burnt at the stake.

Einhorn has fashioned a fifteen-movement work from some of these events, scored for soloists, chorus, orchestra, with the telling addition of the churchbell of the village of Domremy, Joan's birthplace. Commenting on the crucial role of Joan herself, Einhorn remarks, "Since no one knows what Joan looked like, I decided no one would know much about her singing voice: accordingly, Joan's "character" is sung neither in a soprano nor alto range, but in both simultaneously, with simple harmony and in rhythmic union. In our CD, Joan is exquisitely portrayed by the members of the Anonymous 4."

Einhorn's music glows in simple transparent textures. The decision to use Anonymous 4 to portray Joan was inspired. The simple unassuming 'Victory at Orleans' in which Joan writes, "Jehanne...the Maid sends you news from these parts: that in one week she has chased the English from all the places that they held along the Loire river..." is most affecting. So too, is 'The Final Walk' in which Joan's protestations of her innocence is counterpointed poignantly and dramatically by those bells, and the final 'Epilogue' in which Joan's writing are again quoted: "So God, King of Heaven, wills it; and so it has been revealed by the Maid..."

Throughout the work the attention is gripped with music that is dramatic and deeply moving. I would just mention the 'Pater Noster' with its beautiful, luminous setting of the Lord's Prayer, the atmospheric opening of 'Sacrament' with its distant pealing bells and lovely choral settings; the other-worldly radiance of the closing of 'Abjuration', "Lord, that which I do, I do only to find you"; the quiet beauty of the 'Karitas' ("Love overflows into all things...") and the glorious 'Anima'.

Very warmly recommended


Ian Lace


Ian Lace

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