Sonata Sopra Agnus Dei (2018) is a work written for horn quartet, commissioned by the Argotti Ensemble.
The work is based on Francesco Zahra’s altarpiece of ‘Our Lady of the Holy Rosary’ (1748) found in the Parish Church of the Assumption in Ħal Għaxaq. The painting shows the Virgin Mary with the Infant Christ, presenting rosary beads to St Dominic and St Catherine of Siena. These are surrounded by various angels and putti, as well as 15 medallions showing the Mysteries of the Holy Rosary.
The work follows this pictorial composition, with the piano representing the Virgin Mary, the French horn symbolising Christ, and the two violins representing St Dominic and St Catherine. The ‘Agnus Dei’ of the title refers to the use of a melody taken from a small Mass composed previously, which is interwoven into the music in the Baroque fashion.
The work has a tripartite structure, one section for each of the three sets of Mysteries. The first section, the Joyous Mysteries, is given to the piano. The music is reflective as the narrative centres around the Virgin Mary and the beginning of the story of salvation. The French Horn enters in the middle part, the Sorrowful Mysteries, which focus on Christ’s suffering and death. The work ends with the Glorious Mysteries, with all the ensemble playing, as all the various elements are brought together in a fugal texture.
Sonata sopra Agnus Dei was recorded by the Argotti Ensemble on their album ‘Fantasia’ in 2018. You can listen to the work by clicking here.