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Duration: 18 minutes

CATHEDRAL IN THE THRASHING RAIN (2000)
for Countertenor, 2 Tenors, and Baritone Soli
Commissioned by the Hilliard Ensemble

About the poet:

TAKAMURA Kōtarō (1883-1956) was both a sculptor and a poet. He stands as one of the first important modernist voices in Japanese poetry. Prior to World War I, he travelled quite extensively in the West, to the United States, England, France and Italy. Of all these places, France was the country that appealed to him most, as is so clearly evident from the beautiful poem heard in this setting. Cathedral in the thrashing rain (or Ame ni utataru katedoraru, in the original Japanese) was apparently written around 1921. The English translation, used by kind permission of the translator Hiroaki SATŌ, is taken from the collection Chieko and other poems of Takamura Kōtarō (The University Press of Hawaii, Honolulu; 1980).

Cathedral in the Thrashing Rain (translated by Hiroaki Satō)

(Ō mata fukitsunoru ame kaze.)
O another deluge of wind and rain.
Collar turned up, getting drenched in this splashing rain,
and looking up at you -- it's me, ...
it's that Japanese.
This morning
about daybreak the storm suddenly went violent, terrible,
and now is blowing through Paris from one end to the other.
I have yet to know the directions of this land.
(Ō mata fukitsunoru ame kaze.)
I don't even know which way this storm is facing. ...
Only because even today I wanted to stand here
and look up at you, Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris,
I came, getting drenched,
only because I wanted to touch you,
only because I wanted to kiss your skin, the stone, unknown to anyone.

O another deluge of wind and rain.
Though it's already time for morning coffee,
a little while ago I looked from the Pont-Neuf,
the boats on the Seine were still tied up to the banks, like puppies.
The leaves of the gentle plane trees shining in their autumn colors on the banks
are like flocks of buntings chased by hawks. ...
The chestnut trees behind you,
each time their heads ... get mussed up,
starling-colored leaves dance up into the sky. ...
All the square is like a pattern,
filled with flowing silver water, and isles of golden-brown burnt-brown leaves.
Then there's the noise of the downpour resounding in my pores.
It's the noise of something roaring, grinding. ...
With golden plane tree leaves falling all over my coat,
I'm standing in it.
Storms are like this in my country, Japan, too.
Only, we don't see you soaring.

Ō Nootorudamu, Nootorudamu ...
O Notre-Dame, Notre-Dame,
rock-like, mountain-like, eagle-like, crouching-lion-like cathedral,
reef sunk in vast air,
square pillar of Paris,
sealed by blinding splatters of rain, ...
O soaring in front, Notre-Dame de Paris,
it's me, ...
it's that Japanese.
My heart trembles now that I see you.
Looking at your form like a tragedy,
a young man from a far distant country is moved.
...
O another deluge of wind and rain. ...
Only the gargoyles ...
raise their paws, crane their necks,
bare their teeth, blow out burning fountains of breath. ...
O nanto iu ame kaze no shuuchuu.
O what a concentration of wind and rain. ...
How is the rooster at the top of the tall slender steeple doing? ...

Ō mata fukitsunoru ame kaze.
O another deluge of wind and rain.
Sono naka de hasseikikan omomi ni gasshiri to tatsu katedoraru ...
A cathedral standing in it
solid with the weight of eight centuries,
a mass of millions of stones piled and carved by believers of old.
A great scaffold for truth, sincerity, eternity.
You stand wordless. ...
You know the strength of nature's force ...

O cathedral in the thrashing rain ...
... wind and rain that took a breath and has driven itself harder,
all the instruments of the heavens gone berserk,
the dance swirls around ...
O cathedral, ...
you who watch motionless the houses of Paris suffering the storm,
please do not think me rude,
who, hands on your cornerstone,
has his hot cheek pressed on your skin,
it's me, the drunken one.
It's that Japanese.

 

Recorded by
The Hilliard Ensemble on ECM New Series
1861

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