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Le Testament - "Paroles de Villons" (by Ezra Pound; 1926 and 1933 performance editions)

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Format: Oversized paperback; Publisher: Second Evening Art.

Engraved full music scores in a first edition of 200
Introduction by R. Murray Schafer

The one-act 50-minute opera dramatizes the return of exiled poet François Villon to Paris in 1461 to write his ribald and enduring final will and testament.

Double volume

I. The editor's reconstruction of the 1926 Salle Pleyel Concert version of Le Testament. In 1926 Pound rented the Salle Pleyel in Paris to preview 9 numbers from his opera and a newly composed overture for a long horn he called the "cornet de dessus," to demonstrate his theory of Great Bass. Pound revised the rhythms from the 1923 score—fiercely difficult irrational meters edited by George Antheil for what is now considered to be the urtext of the opera—on a new, 5/8 basis and reduced the performing forces to tenor, bass-baritone, violin, harpsichord, 2 trombones, and kettle drums. Virgil Thomson was in the audience, "The music was not quite a musician's music, though it may well be the finest poet's music since Thomas Campion. . . .It bore family resemblances unmistakable to the Socrate of Satie; and its sound has remained in my memory" (Virgil Thomson).

II. Pound's 1933 final, complete version of the opera, recently discovered, was to provide a practical performing edition. The composer continued to revise the rhythms of the numbers, many on a 3/4 and 4/4 basis, though he retained the signature irrational meters of the opera's middle numbers, Heaulmière's aria, Or y penser, and Dame du ciel from earlier versions. Performing forces are for 9 or more singers, 10–12 instruments.

13 facsimile reproductions of Pound's holograph scores, staging instructions, libretto, background, editor's notes.

News from the publishers (July, 2010): Several discrepancies in the manuscript tradition have recently been resolved for the 1926 Version of Le Testamaent. Download a .pdf file of the corrected pages to the score by clicking here.

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