for: alto, tenor, piano
duration: 17 minutes
premièred: June 22, 2017 | Truro Cathedral
Written as a companion piece to Britten's Canticle II, 'Abraham and Isaac', Jeremiad is a setting of passages from the Book of Jeremiah, chapters 4 and 5. The piece is a dramatic exchange between Jeremiah (played throughout by the tenor) and something akin to an angel, speaking for God (sung by the countertenor). Jeremiah pleads with God as his people face imminent exile from Israel: despite the initially bleak text, the piano accompaniment plays an increasingly cathartic role, offering Jeremiah a degree of comfort. Like the text of Britten’s Canticle II, this dialogue between Jeremiah and God is full of raw emotion, revealing a very human side to these Old Testament passages. Jeremiad is also inspired by Britten’s Canticle III ‘Still Falls the Rain’, in which horn and voice remain distinct from one another until the very end. In Jeremiad, both singers come together only in the last section of the piece, a setting of the first line of Psalm 137: ‘By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept.’ This psalm is usually attributed to Jeremiah, and provides a fitting conclusion to the piece as both singers transcend their Old Testament selves.
20 pages, full score
Score samples below (click to zoom):