for SATB soli/SATB/SATB chorus a cappellaforces: SSAATTBB Choir, Bass, Tenor, Alto, Soprano
duration: 15' - 16'
published by: Composer
Before its US Midwest première in February 2016, Amore Langueo was the principal subject of a half-hour Arts America television programme as the Saint Louis Chamber Chorus prepared the work for concert performance. The programme aired the following May and can be accessed via the following link:
Amore Langueo features from the 6’30” mark onwards and the complete concert performance ensues at around 9’15”.
The so-called 20th century English musical ‘renaissance’ saw a reawakened interest in the most glorious genres of the 16th century, but usually stopped short of reinventing its imitative methods. If a work such as Bax’s Mater, Ora Filium shows awareness of the composite effect of 16th century polyphony, the informing instinct is nonetheless an orchestral one of its own time, using ‘block’ doublings of triadic material in a fairly parallel fashion. This is a tendency which Amore Langueo seeks to avoid by borrowing from early models both their outward manner and something of their technique: no easy task, given the need to expand harmonic language and acceptable dissonance well beyond 16th century limits.
The text comes from two separate versions of a strikingly powerful mediaeval poem (much longer than the extracts used here). Both follow the so-called ‘macaronic’ practice of adding a Latin refrain at intervals throughout an English text: in this case, just the two words of the title (‘I languish for love’), sometimes prefaced by ‘quia’ (since or because). I treated these Latin words as a constant, sometimes obsessive undercurrent rising at times to anguished outbursts. The arresting imagery of the poem speaks for itself; but the intention in treating the Latin in such a way is to see the stricken and enigmatic figure waiting for ever on his lonely hill as a Christ perpetually returning to Golgotha to be recrucified within the atrocities of mankind as they re-enact themselves down each successive age.
The narrative parts of the text (before Christ speaks) spur the music to a considerable climax before four soloists (treated much as though they were a single ‘Everyman’ presence) utter the words ‘I am True Love, that false was never’. The two choirs interrupt with increasingly anguished repetitions (‘Amore langueo’), but the narrative of the soloists remains meekly accepting until it reaches the word ‘die’. Another climax follows in which finally the two choirs resume the English text (‘Long thou and live thou never so high…’). The soloists respond (‘My love is in her chamber…’), and this most beautiful passage of the text is set to music which seeks to match its anguished tenderness. A final elevated climax is heard before the music dies gradually away to silence, briefly recalling the music of the opening. The music seeks not so much to end as to recede beyond hearing.
Amore Langueo  was commissioned by and written for the Schola Cantorum of Oxford and their director at that time, the conductor and pianist Howard Moody, with whom they performed it on tour across the USA and at many British venues, including St John’s, Smith Square, London.
© Francis Pott, 1991
In the vale of restless mind, upon a hill I found a tree;
Under this tree a man sitting:
From head to foot wounded was he;
His heart blood I saw bleeding:
I am True Love, that false was never.
My sister, man’s soul, I loved her thus,
That I suffered this pain piteous.
I crowned her with bliss and she me with thorn.
I brought her to worship and she me to scorn.
I led her to chamber and she me to die.
I sit on a hill to see far.
Now from my sight she may not be; in my side have I made her a nest.
Look on me, how wide a wound is there!
My love is in her chamber: hold your peace,
Make no noise, but let her sleep.
My babe shall suffer no disease,
I may not hear my dear child weep.
What shall I do now with my spouse,
But abide her of my gentleness?
Her chamber is chosen, there is no more.
Look out on me from the window of kindness:
Dear soul, go never me fro!
Long though and live though never so high,
Yet is my love more than thine may be,
Quia amore langueo.
…the extended genius of Francis Pott’s Amore Langueo (containing what Summerly describes as ‘one of the great moments in English choral music from any period’)…
Musicweb International, June 2006
Which pieces stand out? …I was most moved by Francis Pott’s work. Its sustained fifteen minute drama, in a post-Howells harmonic language, is tinged with a very personal and often ecstatic lyricism.
American Record Guide, September 2006
This supremely challenging piece—scored for double choir and solo quartet—bears some similarity to Vaughan Williams’s Mass in G minor but brings much more musical complexity to bear. Setting an anonymous medieval poem, it sweeps the listener up into a feverish sense of love’s delirium. This is neither music for the faint of heart nor any but the most accomplished choirs.
Musical Pointers [online review site]:
… Francis Pott‘s Amore Langueo, a magnificent large-scale setting for double choir and four soloists of a 15th century poem which brings the anthology to a satisfying conclusion.
BBC Radio Three [website, announcing programme for Late Junction ]:
Verity Sharp hosts Francis Pott‘s stunning choral masterpiece, Amore Langueo …