Length: c. 20 minutes
Orchestration: piccolo, 2 flutes (2nd = piccolo 2), 3 oboes, 3 clarinets (3rd = bass clarinet), 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (bass drum, crash cymbals, crotales, glockenspiel, gongs, marimba, suspended cymbals, tam-tams, triangle, tubular bells, vibraphone, xylophone), piano, celesta, harp, and strings
First Los Angeles Philharmonic performances (West Coast premiere)
Une lueur dans l’âge sombre was commissioned by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra to celebrate its first season under Music Director Stéphane Denève, who led the orchestra in the premiere on September 28, 2005. Connesson found his inspiration in a scientific article about the formation of galaxies and dedicated the work to Denève.
“Une lueur dans l’âge sombre was carefully constructed to precede my work entitled Supernova (1997), which depicts the explosion and death of a star. As a musician, my imagination has been frequently stimulated by the idea of ?immeasurable space? and I wanted this piece to depict the birth of light, the first rays bursting out of the obscurity,” Connesson wrote in a note in the score.
“It is rather like ‘cosmic’ pastoral music; a wide-ranging movement, slow and contemplative, articulated around three sections that are preceded by an introduction and end with a coda. The introduction is based on harmonies that ring out around a complete cycle of fifths (bass). A shimmering and infinitely sweet music moves progressively into the first theme, expressed by a brass choir (pianissimo). The sound gradually diminishes into silence; then, within this new, obscure space, the second theme begins (for cellos), based on an Indian raga (Todi, one of the great morning ragas). This long and sinuous melody slowly grows, and the orchestra takes flight with a long crescendo of sound symbolizing light. The central part of the score is like peaceful water, a serene development of two themes, where an oboe and cello duet alternates with the strings. After a horn solo, a new wave of light is born with a raga theme. The piece climaxes with a blinding light – the superimposition of the two themes. In the coda, the wave of light gradually moves away until it is totally swallowed by space. We hear the beginning theme of Supernova and it is on the initial fifth that the piece ends.”