Cri de Coeur

Score title

Cri de Coeur


Libby Larsen

More about the composer




Program note

I met euphonium performer and teacher Brian Meixner while doing a residency with the School of Music at Slippery Rock University in 2007. Brian stopped me in the hall and asked if I would ever be interested in writing a piece for euphonium. I had not written for solo Euphonium, and it struck me at the moment that I wanted to do a piece in honor of one of my dear friends and mentors, Henry Charles Smith, who was former euphonium player for the Philadelphia Orchestra and conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra the entire time while I was growing up in Minneapolis. He is one of the champions of euphonium. I was also interested because my own sound trajectory (as well as that of the common ear since the 1600s) has moved down in tessitura.

A “Cri de Coeur” is from the French “cry from the heart.” It is a passionate outcry, often of protest. I am not happy with the state of things in 2010. I am worried, and my concern has been since I saw the Space Shuttle Challenger explode on television in 1986. My worry is that the arrogance of human beings is paired with a constructed spirituality that we are put on this earth to dominate, control, and make it useful to us. We seem to have an inability to stop for a moment and project what the consequences of our actions may mean. As an artist—and I think a lot of artists feel this way today—I just wanted to cry out, very much in the same way that Edvard Munch cried out with The Scream.

This is not a programmatic piece but rather an abstract human emotion that we all share, and music is the best way I can express it. I was more interested in writing a fiercely emotional piece, rather than one preoccupied with technique, trend, or fad. The first “audience” or “receiver” for Cri de Coeuris the ensemble itself as they are discovering the piece. The solo euphonium becomes the “crier,” and the solo offstage trumpet becomes the “responder” to the entreaty. The architectural form is not a “known” one (ABA, etc.), but yet it is not through-composed. A simple three-note theme permeates the entire work, taking the listener on an unpredictable journey. The introduction of the hymn “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones” is derived from the falling action of the dramatic arch created at measure 81, and is intentionally not a Christian response to the outcry; rather it is a spiritual evocation.

— Libby Larsen