Trond Kverno (b. 1945) – arguably Norway’s finest composer of sacred music – wrote his St. Matthew’s Passion in 1986. The work is scored for two choirs and soloists. The text - in Latin – is based on the Gospel according to St. Matthew, chapters 26 and 27. The composer has included a number of passages which highlight connections between The New testament and The Old, thus making the work an exercise in typological exegesis.
Kverno’s music is based on formulas, derived from simple melodic and/or harmonic patterns with minimal degree of elaboration. Structural simplicity is combined with an eclectic approach to traditions of European vocal music, both sacred and secular. This paper explores some reminiscences of Richard Wagner’s Parsifal. The influence of the great composer may possibly be traced in Kverno’s use of mediant relationships. Richard Cohn’s notions of hexatonic poles and the notion of “Unheimlich” – an idea that can be traced back to Freud - help us to understand what is going on. Still, octatonic structures are even more important.
Finally, the idea of “referential dyads” is discussed. The term originated in an article on Parsifal by Patrick McCreless, and may become a handy tool in further studies of Trond Kverno’s musical language.