(Text from Dante: La Vita Nuova and Pico della Mirandola: Conclusiones).
Duration: 7’
Dedicated to Erica, Robert and Vita Hewison.
Instrumentation: Solo alto, violin, viola, cello.
First performance: St Mary de Castro, Leicester, 1 April 1989


January 1, 1989

Gavin’s Notes:

Incipit Vita Nova (1989)

Incipit Vita Nova is for male alto and string trio and sets those short phrases that appear in Latin rather than Italian in Dante’s La Vita Nuova. It was written in February 1989 to celebrate the birth of Vita, the first child of my friends Erica and Robert Hewison. I wrote the piece at the same time as I was writing Cadman Requiem and, like that piece, it represents a personal response to a life. Both were written for the Hilliard Ensemble with whom I had developed a close working relationship. I chose this particular instrumentation because while Erica loves David’s voice Robert is very fond of my string quartets. David effectively serves as an additional instrument to the string trio by achieving an imperceptible blend of voice with accompanying instruments at the beginning and at the end. Although I had decided to write the piece long before the birth I did not start the piece until after the baby was born, waiting until I knew whether the baby was a boy or a girl, and wanting to know the baby’s name – Vita. I originally looked for all uses of the word “Vita” (life) among Pico della Mirandola’s Conclusiones  (I had set Pico for Glorious Hill, my earlier piece for the Hilliard) and eventually added one of these sentences (“Omnis vita est immortalis”) as the penultimate line of the text while working on La Vita Nuova (“The New Life”) as the main source. The first performance was given by David James at St. Mary de Castro Church in Leicester on 1 April 1989, and shortly afterwards was performed with the first performances of Cadman Requiem in Lyon and Marseille.

Text for Incipit Vita Nova

Incipit Vita Nova A new life is beginning

Ecce deus fortior me Behold a God more powerful than I

qui veniens dominabitur mihi. who comes to rule over me

Apparuit iam beatitudo vestra Your source of joy has now appeared

Vide cor tuum Behold your heart

Tempus est ut praetermictantur It is time for false images

simulacra nostra. to be put aside.

Nomina sunt consequentia rerum Names are the consequences of things

Hosanna in excelcis. Hosanna in the highest.

Bella mihi, video, Things beautiful to me, I see

bella parantur. beautiful things are being prepared.

(vita) qui est per omnia secula (a life) which is for all times

benedicta, benedicta. blessed, blessed.

Omnis vita est immortalis. All life is immortal.

Nomina sunt consequentia rerum Names are the consequences of things.

The piece is dedicated to Vita, Erica and Robert Hewison.

Gavin Bryars