Completed in Baltimore, Maryland on July 1, 2016, Berceuse Infinie ("Infinite Lullaby") was a commission from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and is dedicated to Marin Alsop.
It was my wish to compose a cradle song that would be primarily tonal in harmony and gentle (for the most part) in affect. Certainly some inspiration came from Ferruccio Busoni's remarkable "Berceuse Elegiaque" (1909), though there are no musical correspondences between that work and mine. Except for a brief passage of acceleration, the same rocking tempo is maintained throughout my piece, and the general texture is quite simple, as befits a lullaby. Whether this is a lullaby for a child or an adult is for each listener to decide for him or herself.
Berceuse Infinie is scored for two flutes, two oboe, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, three trombones, timpani, a small percussion section (two players), harp, and strings. It lasts approximately thirteen minutes.
© 2018 by Christopher Rouse
These program notes can be reproduced free of charge with the following credit:
Reprinted by kind permission of Christopher Rouse
"In Berceuse Infinie, receiving its world premiere, the eminent Baltimore-born composer Christopher Rouse spins a spellbinding, not necessarily soothing lullaby for adults. Punctuated by the eerie sound of orchestra members exhaling, the music suggests a reflection on how fragile and temporal our existence is, but still, somehow, keeps renewing.
"Rouse dedicated Berceuse Infinie ("Infinite Lullaby") to BSO music director Marin Alsop. She returned the compliment by ensuring that the score received a terrific first performance, drawing richly communicative playing from the orchestra and the many soloists within.
"Right from the ruminative opening, which includes the first of the exhaled sighs, Rouse grabs the ear with at once dark and beautiful melodic ideas that emerge from a kind of mist. They are given a gently rocking rhythmic pulse that holds the roughly 15-minute score together.
"The composer's sophisticated harmonic language adds color and texture. His familiar mastery of orchestration is everywhere in evidence, as much in the subtlest percussion touches as in the lushest string chords.
"The score has a sublime close, when a few questioning sounds give way to a kind of serenity and the last of the audible sighs. (That use of human breaths could turn gimmicky, but Rouse employs the device deftly.)"
"There's something very private, yet open, about this music. Its most piercing passages bring to mind a description someone once gave to the Adagietto from Mahler's Symphony No. 5 — "a requiem for the living — but its most radiant moments vibrate with hope."
"...the work provides further evidence of Rouse's inventive melodic gift, namely to create tunes that sound like the work of no other composer...."