Martyrium

Martyrium
Composer: Henrique Coe

Reading: 21/April/2017
Discovery Series at National Sawdust (Brooklyn – NY) – collaboration between Open G Records and Access Contemporary Music

Performers:
Michael Smith (piano)
Suliman Tekalli (violin)
Julia Yang (cello)
Jeremy Gill (conductor)

Program note:
The lives of the martyrs are undoubtedly very impressive. Rather than denying their faith in Jesus Christ, these people preferred to forfeit their earthly life in hope of life eternal, even if their martyrdom involved suffering barbaric cruelties. What is also astonishing is that, notwithstanding all that suffering, their souls rejoiced during their ordeal, persisting with remarkable faith, hope and charity.

There are many examples of these persons since the beginning of Christianity. Saint Peter, the apostle appointed by Christ to be the first pope, was crucified in Rome in the 1st century. Even before Saint Peter’s martyrdom, Saint Stephen gave up his life by being stoned to death. In the 20th century, Saint José Luis Sánchez Del Río, being only fourteen years old, had the soles of his feet peeled off and was forced to walk barefoot behind a horse for nearly fourteen kilometers while receiving beatings and insults. Despite all of this, he persisted in crying out “Viva Cristo Rey y la Virgen de Guadalupe!”.

This piece for piano, violin and cello attempts to express in some way these impressive testimonies of faith. After a mysterious beginning, the music builds, alternating between contrasting moods to convey the interplay of suffering and hope. In the middle of the piece, the violin starts a quotation of the Gregorian chant “Rex Gloriose Martyrum” (a hymn for two or more martyrs in the Roman Catholic liturgy), emphasizing the glorious and beautiful aspect of martyrdom.

At the end, the mysterious theme of the beginning is restated with earnest conviction, showing the triumph of hope over suffering. The piece ends with a bright major chord with a decrescendo to pianissimo, depicting the happy and glorious passage through death to eternal life.