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Slaves Chorus for Trombone Quintet

Composer
Giuseppe Verdi Arranged by Keith Terrett
Arranger
Difficulty
Difficult (Grades 7+)
Duration
2 minutes
Genre
Classical music
Instrumentation
Quintet
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An arrangement of the Slaves Chorus for Trombone Quintet.

"Va, pensiero" (Italian: [va penˈsjɛro]), also known in English as the "Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves", is a chorus from the third act of the opera Nabucco (1842) by Giuseppe Verdi, with a libretto by Temistocle Solera, inspired by Psalm 137. Known as Verdi’s "Jewish" work of art, it recollects the story of Jewish exiles in Babylon after the loss of the First Temple in Jerusalem. The opera with its powerful chorus established Verdi as a major composer in 19th-century Italy. The full incipit is "Va, pensiero, sull’ali dorate", meaning "Fly, thought, on the golden wings" (note that the first word is in modern orthography spelled Va’, with an apostrophe, but this is absent in the libretto).

Verdi composed Nabucco at a difficult moment in his life. His wife and small children had all just died. He had contracted with La Scala to write another opera and the director forced the libretto into his hands. Returning home, Verdi happened to open the libretto at "Va, pensiero" and seeing the phrase, he heard the words singing. At first rehearsal "the stagehands shouted their approval, then beat on the floor and the sets with their tools to create an even noisier demonstration". As he was subsequently to note, Verdi felt that "this is the opera with which my artistic career really begins. And though I had many difficulties to fight against, it is certain that Nabucco was born under a lucky star".

Upon Verdi’s death, along his funeral’s cortege in the streets of Milan, bystanders started spontaneous choruses of "Va, pensiero…" A month later, when he was reinterred alongside his wife at the ’Casa di Riposo’, a young Arturo Toscanini conducted a choir of eight hundred in the famous hymn.

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