Steven Stucky: Lulajże, Jezuniu

Context

Steven Stucky (1949-2016) was a Pulitzer Prize winning American composer who wrote music for a range of different ensembles. He is perhaps most well-known for his orchestral works such as Dreamwaltzes (1986), Jeu de timbres (2003) and Rhapsodies for Orchestra (2018).

Stucky also wrote a fair amount of choral music during his career. His set of Cradle Songs were composed in 1997, and included the haunting piece Lulajże, Jezuniu. Composed for a solo soprano and SABT a capella choir, Lulajże, Jezuniu is a truly mesmerising choral work.

The Text

Polish and English Translation

Lulajże Jezuniu, moja Perełko, / Hush little Jesus, my little pearl,

Lulaj ulubione me Pieścidełko. / Hush my favourite little delight.

Lulajże Jezuniu, lulaj, że lulaj / Hush my little Jesus, hush, hush

A ty go matulu w płaczu utulaj / but you lovely mother, solace him in tears

Zamknijże znużone płaczem powieczki, / Close your little eyelids, tired of weeping,

Utulże zemdlone łkaniem usteczki. / Solace the little lips, fainted from sobbing.

Lulajże, piękniuchny nasz Aniołeczku. / Hush, our beautiful Angel.

Lulajże wdzięczniuchny świata Kwiateczku. / Hush, you graceful little flower of the world.

Lulajże, Różyczko najozdobniejsza, / Hush, you most decorative little rose,

Lulajże, Lilijko najprzyjemniejsza. / Hush, you most comfortable little lily.

Dam ja Jezusowi słodkich jagódek / I’ll give Jesus a little butter with bread,

pójdę z nim w Matuli serca ogródek. / I’ll put a doll into his crib.

Dam ja Jezusowi z chlebem masełeka, / I’ll give Jesus a little butter with bread,

włożę ja kukiełkę w jego jasełka. / I’ll put a doll into his crib.

Dam ja Ci słodkiego, Jezu, cukierka / I’ll give you, Jesus, a sweet goody

rodzynków, migdałów z mego pudełka. / raisins, almonds from my little box.

Cyt, cyt, cyt niech zaśnie małe Dzieciątko / Hush! Hush! Hush! Let the sweet little child fall asleep

oto już zasnęlo niby kurczątko. / Here it has already fallen asleep like a little chicken.

Cyt, cyt, cyt wszyscy się spać zabierajcie, / Hush! Hush! Hush! You all go to sleep now,

mojego Dzieciątka nie przebudzajcie. / Don’t wake up my sweet little child.

 

The Music

Translated into ‘Hush, my Jesus’, Lulajże, Jezuniu is based on a Polish Carol. The title words are repeated in different forms throughout the song, with Stucky using staggered entries to create ethereal dissonances. The opening is marked ‘Hushed, suspended’, which allows the voices time to move and breath together.

The middle sets of voice move the dissonances around the chord, with the basses keeping the rooted feel in place. The solo soprano sings through the Polish Carol as the choir suspend their chords beneath. The text speaks of sending someone to sleep, which is why Stucky has placed this work in his Cradle Songs collection.

Stucky uses voice slides and suspensions to create interesting vocal effects, which in turn place emphasis on the title words. Stucky’s emphasis on the words ‘Hush’, ‘Jesus’ and ‘sweet’ shows the tone of the poem and the childlike atmosphere created at times. The carol is haunting, but overwhelmingly beautiful.

Final Thoughts

Steven Stucky’s choral work Lulajże, Jezuniu is a perfect example of Stucky’s light touch when it came to choral composition. His use of dissonance and imagery speaks through the Polish Carol chosen for the text. A perfect cradle song.

 

Happy Reading!

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