witness to a snow miracle

Simon Holt (1958)

witness to a snow miracle 2005

2pic+afl.1(ca).1+bcl.cbn/3.0.1+btbn.1/timp.3perc/2hp.pf+cel/str(12.10.0.0.8)
Duration 
23
Solist 
Genre 
Commissioner 
Publisher 

1. Eulalia of Merida [violin solo]
2. the tearing, the burning
3. flames become birds
4. snowfall on ashes
5. witness
6. torments
7. halo

"witness to a snow miracle" is a violin concerto in seven short movements based around the life of Saint Eulalia, the virgin martyr. The movements are presented as if part of a painting in which we see all the events of her life and eventual martyrdom.

Eulalia was born in Merida, Spain where she was put to death, in what was possibly her 12th or 14th year, by the Romans in 304 A.D. At the moment of her death, a white dove (symbolising her soul) flew from her mouth. Little is known about her but that she refused to worship "false gods" as Christians were ordered to by Diocletian. As a consequence, her judge, Calpurnianus, ordered that her body should be torn by iron hooks revealing her very bones and flames applied to the wounds to increase her suffering. She was dragged by the hair, berating her captors all the while and threatening them with the terrors of the Final Judgement, to the place of execution where she was covered in hot coals. Her hair caught fire and she was suffocated by the smoke. A blanket of snow fell on her ashes, at which point she was declared a saint.

The violin is possibly Eulalia herself or a witness to her torments and martyrdom. Or are we as listeners witnesses to the proceedings?

Simon Holt

Performances 
18.2.06 Barbican, London: Viviane Hagner/BBC Symphony Orchestra Viviane Hagner/Jonathan Nott
22.09.07 Beethovenhalle, Bonn: Viviane Hagner/BBC Symphony Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins
28.10.09 Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff: Chloe Hanslip/BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Thierry Fischer
3
Flute
2 piccolos, 1 alto flute
1
Oboe
doubling cor anglais
1
Clarinet
doubling bass clarinet
1
Bassoon
contrabassoon
3
Horn
2
Trombone
2nd bass trombone
1
Tuba
1
Timpani
3
Percussion
12
Violin
10
Violin II
8
Double bass
2
Harp
1
Piano
dou
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