Sanctus and Pleni Sunt Coeli form the Mass L'Homme ArmÃ© by Palestrina. The 15th-century French folk song "L'Homme ArmÃ©" was so popular in its time that composers used it as the theme in no fewer than 30 polyphonic masses. It appears in these two excerpts both as the cantus firmus in the tenor voice (played here by the tenor violin) and as the basis of the melodic material in the surrounding voices. All eight of the new violins perform in the Sanctus; the Pleni Sunt Coeli is arranged for a quartet of soprano, mezzo, alto, and tenor violins.
Introduction on a Psalm Tune. In four brief interconnected sections the eight violins play in combinations and as soloists. Lewin deftly displays groupings of the four highest and four lowest violins, including brief cadenzas by the contrabass, small bass, baritone, and tenor violins, followed by short passages for the mezzo and alto. The final section unites all eight instruments sounding throughout their entire compass. A masterpiece in miniature!
Dramatic Suite for New Violins. This contemporary work is scored for the six lowest instruments and consists of four movements, Prelude and Chorale; Toccata and Pasacaglia; Air; and Fugato and Epilogue.
Frank Lewin (1925 - ). Lewin studied composition with Felix Deyo before entering the Yale University School of Music where he studied with Richard Donovan and Paul Hindemith. Lewin later served his alma mater on the music school faculty from 1971 to 1992. Lewin has written extensively for choral and instrumental ensembles, and for stage, film and television. His output includes his 1993 opera, Burning Bright, plus original scores for almost 200 films and 130 hour-long episodes of the TV series "The Defenders" and "The Nurses." Lewin's interest in the New Violin Family has spanned almost four decades, and he was among the first to write for the Violin Octet.
Carleen Hutchins and the New Violin Family. Physicist-Luthier Dr. Carleen M. Hutchins designed and constructed a new family of stringed instruments based on the research that she began in the 1950s with Frederick Saunders of Harvard and John C. Schelleng of Bell Labs. The Violin Octet project, begun at the behest of composer Henry Brant, has produced a family of eight violins with a musical compass that spans the entire range of written music. The new instruments are more powerful than conventional instruments and produce new individual sonorities. They make excellent solo instruments for today's larger concert halls. In ensemble, the sounds produced by their identical acoustical design creates a remarkable listening experience. Composer Terry Mann likened the Violin Octet not to eight individual instruments, but "one great instrument with eight voices."
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1. Sanctus and Pleni Sunt Coeli
2. Introduction on a Psalm Tune
3. Dramatic Suite for New Violins