corro a Dio (2011)
soprano and piano
Text: Vittoria Colonna
Duration:  7 minutes

Commissioned by Emily Sinclair

Emily Sinclair, soprano and Christopher Zemliauskas, piano; March 7, 2012; DMA recital Emily Sinclair, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO.

Other performances:
Emily Sinclair, soprano and Christopher Zemliauskas, piano; March 21, 2012; Pendulum New Music concert, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO.

Barbara Wollan, soprano and Nan Shannon, piano; March 12, 2014; Women of Spirit concert, Peter Claver Recital Hall, Regis University, Denver, CO.

Program notes:
     corro a Dio, “running to God,” is a setting of Vittoria Colonna’s sonnet #22 from her Sonnets for Michelangelo. Written in approximately 1538, Colonna was praised for her mastery of the Petrarchan sonnet. What interests me more about sonnet #22 is the reformational spirituality in Colonna’s sentiments about intimacy with God and divine grace. The poetic imagery of the piece moves from passionate running toward God through cold and mist, toward abandonment into the great ocean of divine grace. The musical setting portrays this pursuit by setting the soprano and piano in different tempi that gradually work their way to a single tempo in the final section. In the opening, the piano’s expansive rolled chords feature all twelve pitches, yet gradually lose pitches throughout the course of the piece until the voice and piano center around a D-Eb-E trio. Throughout the poem, Colonna’s thoughts turn ever deeper within, and the music reflects this same turning inward, as the upward sweeping melodies of the beginning inflect downward as the piece draws to a close.

Vittoria Colonna Sonnets for Michelangelo
Sonnet #22

     Tra gelo e nebbia corro a Dio sovente
Per foco e lume, ond’i ghiacci diciolti
Siano e gli ombrosi veli aperti e tolti
Con la divina luce e fiamma ardente;
     E se fredda ed oscura è ancor la mente,
Pur son tutti i pensieri al ciel rivolti,
E par che dentro in gran silenzio ascolti
Un suon che sol ne l’anima si sente,
     E dice, “Non temer, che venne al mondo
Giesù d’eterno ben largo ampio mare
Per far leggiero ogni gravoso pondo;
     Sempre son l’onde sue più dolci e chiare
A chi con umil barca in quel gran fondo,
De l’alta sua bontà si lascia andare.”

     I often run through cold and mist toward God’s
heat and light, which melt away the ice
and tear apart and banish the shadowy veils
through the power of holy light and ardent flames;
     and if my mind remains chilly and dark,
yet all my thoughts are turned to heaven,
and deep within myself in a profound silence I seem to hear
a sound that can only be heard within my soul,
     and it tells me, “Do not be afraid, for Jesus came
into the world, wide and ample sea of eternal good,
to relieve us of our heavy burdens;
     his waves are always smaller and more gentle
for those who, in a bark of humility upon the great ocean
of his divine grace, freely abandon themselves.”

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