TRIPTYCH REVELATION, composer Sergio Cervetti’s seventh album with Navona, presents works from across four decades of his extensive career. Though a fair bit of time separates these pieces, the album’s three works all feature unique explorations of apocalyptic themes, inspired by themes drawn from the New Testament, nineteenth century French literature, and Flemish art of the sixteenth century.
Inspired by portentous images from the Book of Revelation, Concerto for Trumpet, Strings, and Timpani (1973) pays specific homage to the passage, “And the seventh angel sounded the trumpet” (XI:15). Cervetti created the work as a trumpet aria, with three sections that unfold in a faceted continuum. Opening with a foreboding and menacing trumpet solo, the piece launches into full swing with tumultuous interplay between the brass and timpani. The final section’s viola and celli parts recall the Voices of Heaven, joined later by timpani and trumpet for an apocalyptic crescendo and finale.
Written in memory of the composer’s sister, Piano Quintet “Toward the Abyss” (2015) is molded from Charles Baudelaire’s poem Le Voyage and contemplates mortality and the voyage toward the afterlife. The work’s post-minimalist tendencies exhibit a mature dexterity, using salient aesthetic means such as scattered 12-tone rows, minimalism, glimmers of melody, and the synthesis of suspense in tone and material. A meditative sequence of ascending piano and string lines conjures imagery of a flame extinguished and fused with eternity, with the smoke fading into eternal resplendence in the last movement’s quotation of J.S. Bach’s chorale Before thy Throne I Now Appear.
The Hay Wain (1987), an electroacoustic tone poem, was inspired by the medieval triptych of the same name by painter Hieronymus Bosch. Cervetti uses a virtual orchestra redolent of the painter’s brush to create colorful, grotesque responses to Bosch’s horrifying representations of the world and its ultimate fate. In traversing this narrative, the composer draws inspiration for four movements from the painting, evoking imagery such as angels as insects falling to earth like confetti; a wagon laden with hay drawn by semi-human, semi-animal monsters; a tower of human pride constructed by sinners; and lovers sitting and playing the lute in bliss, oblivious of the abyss towards which they are being driven.