Date: November 19, 2006
I wonder if any of you can help with a conducting question related to
Randall Thompson "Pueri Hebraeorum"? What is his intention in going from 4/4 to 3/4 - whether the quarter note remains steady or whether it should be treated as hemiola with one measure of 3/4 = a half note in 4/4. The only marking there is "festevole". Since we know that he based the piece on the Handl "Haec Dies" we think that might be an argument in favor of similar rhythmic treatment.
Thanks for any help you can provide.
My understanding is that it is not a hemiola, and that the quarter note stays the same throughout the work creating a gently syncopated effect which follows the rhythm of the words. Considering that the work was written in 1928, I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that at that time is was not always an accepted performance practice to alter the rhythmic values in such works as the Handl 'Haec Dies', as we understand and usually do today. However although Dr. Thompson and I discussed the piece from time to time, I never heard him conduct it, nor did I ever think to ask him about this issue, and perhaps other readers of this list have other recollections.
I would also point out that the changing meters and syncopation have as much to do with sublimated 1920s jazz, as they do with Handl. And the same situation arises in various movements of The Peaceable Kingdom, where the jazz influence is much more overt.
Dr. David Francis Urrows
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Hong Kong Baptist University
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