Louise Talma's Christmas Carol

By Leonard, Kendra Preston | Notes, June 2010 | Go to article overview

Louise Talma's Christmas Carol


Leonard, Kendra Preston, Notes


ABSTRACT

Discovered in 2009 at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University, Louise Talma's 1959 Christmas carol, playfully titled Chorus Angelorum, Piccolassima Fughetta, Molto Tonale, Sopra un Tema, Torentoni Niventis Wilderi, is a fugal motet for three voices. Written for Thornton Wilder, Talma's collaborator on her opera The Alcestiad, the work is unusual in that it represents a completely tonal work by Talma during a period when she was working in her own distinct nonstrict serial idiom, and is the only fully tonal work she composed after being inspired to work in a serial style by Irving Fine's String Quartet of 1952. It is also a glimpse into Talma's psyche at the time when she was orchestrating The Alcestiad, and into her close friendship with Wilder.

**********

In December 1959, while she was working on the orchestration of her opera, The Alcestiad, American composer Louise Talma (1906-1996) took a break from her work--something she usually loathed to do--to write a short musical Christmas card. (1) Its recipient was her close friend and the librettist of her opera, author and playwright Thornton Wilder. While Talma's correspondence often includes musical settings of short greetings or lines from previous letters sketched out in the margins, usually composed in a single line and lasting two or three measures, this work is more significant. Playfully titled Chorus Angelorum, Piccolassima Fughetta, Molto Tonale, Sopra un Tema, Torentoni Niventis Wilderi, it is--as the title suggests--a fugal motet written for three voices without accompaniment, taking as its text the words "Merry Christmas" and "Happy New Year" in several translations. (2) Talma dates the score as 12-13 December 1959, and it apparently reached Wilder on or around the 23d of that month. Tucked away in a letter from Wilder in the Louise Talma Papers held by the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, the Chorus Angelorum does not appear in Luann Dragone's online catalog of Talma's works, nor is it listed among her compositions in standard reference works such as Grove Music Online. (3) The date of composition places it as being the only work Talma completed while working on the opera, which she formally began on 13 September 1955 and completed in piano-vocal score on 30 October 1958. (4)

The Chorus Angelorum is notable among Talma's oeuvre for several reasons. It represents a completely tonal work by Talma during a period when she was working in her own distinct nonstrict serial idiom; and is the only fully tonal work she composed after being inspired to work in a serial style by Irving Fine's String Quartet of 1952. Further, the swiftness of its composition opens a window into Talma's psyche at this point. She had just come off the end of a grueling three-year period composing The Alcestiad and, while still working up to twenty hours a day on the orchestration, was relieved that the job of creating the piano-vocal score was complete. The Chorus Angelorum also comes at a time during which the opera was under consideration by the Metropolitan Opera Company for an American premiere at the new Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, something that caused Talma both happiness and anxiety at. the outcome. Finally, the work is a very solid--albeit short--representation of the joy Talma took in her friendship with Wilder, who was also the dedicatee of the first of her Six Etudes for piano (1954), the Three Bagatelles (1955), and her Second Piano Sonata (1955). (5)

Talma began composing in a nonstrict serial style in the early 1950s, and The Alcestiad, which she was orchestrating at the time of the Chorus Angelorum's composition, is constructed of serially-derived motifs used to create tonal centers. Although Talma had mostly abandoned the harmonic languages and styles of her training with Nadia Boulanger at the Conservatoire Americain in Fontainebleau, France, which encompassed mastering the compositional approaches of composers from Monteverdi to Stravinsky and focused on French neoclassicism, she nevertheless focused much of her serial work on tonal centers. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Louise Talma's Christmas Carol
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.