“The human voice, possibly the most subtle, complex, flexible and persuasive carrier of musical ideas and meanings, has always been an inspiration for and influence upon my entire musical thinking. In the Canti Trilogy, literary texts (poetic virtuosity) interact with vocal and instrumental capacities (musical virtuosity) to create not a setting of words to music but a labyrinth of relationships and connections – sometimes simple (even elementary) and clear: sometimes complex and mysterious.”
— Bernard Rands
The Canti Trilogy reflects Rands’ wide literary concerns and a deep understanding of the 42 chosen texts in five languages (English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish) which constitute the three cycles: Canti Lunatici for Soprano, Canti del Sole for Tenor, Canti dell’Eclisse for Bass. Each of these exists in two versions; one for solo voice and orchestra, the other for solo voice and chamber ensemble. Composed between 1980 and 1993, the six related works add up to a performance time of some three hours.
Each of the cycles follows a “narrative” progression: the “moon” cycle moves from sundown to dawn, beginning with Quasimodo’s poem “Ed è sùbito sera” (And in no time it is evening). The “sun” cycle performed this evening begins with sunrise and ends with the same Quasimodo poem. The “eclipse” cycle, in contrast, comprises a more abstract progression – a movement from St. Francis’s beatific acceptance of the divine order, through Milton’s and Tasso’s eclipse-inspired despair and doubt, concluding with Henry Vaughan’s weary grief and resignation.
Canti del Sole (1984) arranges 14 texts (in English, French, Italian, and German) in two parts of 7 poems each – though without a break between them. The first 7 poems evoke the sunrise and the rush to midday’s intensity of light and heat. The following 7 poems reflect upon the gradual and languorous decline of the sun’s power – “thickening down to red…as the sun in my soul is setting fierce and undaunted…”
The entire trilogy, together and as separate works, has been performed hundreds of times around the world. The orchestra version of Canti del Sole was awarded the 1984 Pulitzer Prize in Music.