Notes by the composer
It was well on during the proceess of composing that the "unifying image" came to my mind for the present work: the image of Petrarca himself, in a quadruple incarnation (the four singers), entering his studio, most preoccupied by the strophe of the Canzone he wishes to complete, searching for words and rhymes in a somewhat unseebly manner, almost aleatorically, non-sensically, of declaimiinng more vigorously the passages he is the most sure of, writing down nervously as he repeats the words aloud, of bathiing in the sensuousness of the conclusion found at last... And then, leaving the studion quite alleviated and light spirited.
As the commission to write this work was cicumstantially related to Petrarca (700th anniversary of his birth, idea of the Montréal Nouvelles Musiques festival and of the Hilliard Ensemble to present a program combining commissioned works based on texts by the celebrated Italian poet along with some of the Montreverdi settings); and since my colleague Serge Provost, the other composer of the project had decided to concentrate his efforts on some of the love poems of the Conzoniere, as if by contradiction, I directed my attentiion to some of the very few texts of the great colletion that deal with other topics, moreover often political (circumstantial of interventional sonnets, a cycle onn Avignon, etc, mainly addressed to bichop friends or princes). I finally chose one strophe of the famouc Italia mia cazone (CXXVIII), written under the impact of the poet's indignation when the city of Parma, where he temporarily dwelled, was sold by its prince, (along with its population, of course...), a pawn iin the unceasing game of rivalry and wars between the Italian prinices if the ime, be they supporter of the poper or the smperor. The strophe in question goes beyond the anecdotal and addresses the roots of the "evil", and therefore its tone of wisdom (self-interest apart...) can have profound resonances for our time.
Sone short phrases of another poem (CV), one also of a quite different thematic content than the predominating one of Laura-and-love, and rather enigmatic and obscure, seved to put the fist one into the context of the "unifying image" mentionned above, and justified some invented lines in pseudo-Italian.
Musically, the work is based on four closely connected heptatonic modes that I use to generate melodies, chords or harmonies of different degrees of tension and consonance, these being then associated with the different semantic subdivisions of the strophe, revealed by its analysis: arecalling of the inevitability of death, the source of harm and evil, the necessity of conversion, the gift of peace.
The piece is dedicated, admiringly, to the members of the Hilliard Ensemble and, as a mark of friendship, to Denys Bouliane.