Sanguis Venenatus

Sanguis Venenatus is an elegy for strings by English composer Andrew March written in memory of haemophiliacs (and others) affected by the Tainted Blood Scandal.[1][2][3][4][5][6] The elegy was included in a service on 30 March 2011, at Westminster Abbey[7] to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the enactment of the UK legislation – the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970. Sanguis Venenatus was dedicated to the late Lord Morris of Manchester, to recognise his long–standing support and advocacy for persons with haemophilia.[8]

Sanguis Venenatus
by Andrew March
EnglishTainted blood
PeriodContemporary classical music
GenreMusic for strings
FormTernary form
Composed2009 (2009)
Recorded9 July 2011 (2011-07-09) Reduta Hall, Olomouc, Czech Republic
ScoringString orchestra
Date20 March 2010 (2010-03-20)
LocationTodmorden, West Yorkshire
ConductorNicholas Concannon Hodges
PerformersTodmorden Orchestra
Written in memory of haemophiliacs who lost their lives due to contaminated blood


In 2009, Andrew March completed a cycle of 10 string quartets based on the characteristics of diurnal birds of prey. The fifth piece, entitled Elegy for an Unsuspecting Phalarope was inspired by the image of a huge buzzard snatching a small grey wading bird.[8] The photograph, which appeared in The Times on 16 January 2009, was taken by two birdwatchers, Paul Freestone and Tim Twiggs at St Gothian Sands in Cornwall.[9][10] For March, this image became a poignant metaphor for the disaster which befell thousands of haemophiliacs who were treated with contaminated blood products.[5] The quartet was subsequently reworked for the forces of a full string orchestra, after which the elegy was given the Latin title, Sanguis Venenatus; the closest possible rendering of ″Tainted Blood″.[8]

The score, completed in 2009, bears the inscription: ″This work is dedicated to all the haemophiliacs and others who have lost their lives through contaminated blood and blood products.″ In the April 2013 edition of the European Haemophilia Consortium newsletter, the composer talked in personal terms about what motivated him to write the elegy:

It is difficult to express in words exactly how I felt at losing so many of my friends, other than to say I was wracked with grief. As a composer, this build–up of emotion had to go somewhere and it is my wish that in writing the elegy, I have managed to capture some of this strength of feeling.[11]


The piece was recorded in Reduta Hall, Olomouc, Czech Republic on 9 July 2011, by 50 string players from the Moravian Philharmonic under conductor, Petr Vronský. Sanguis Venenatus was released as the fourth track on the CD album Dimensions – Works for String Orchestra by Navona Records (NV5895) on 13 November 2012.[12] The Dimensions album was reviewed in Gramophone in March 2013, where Donald Rosenberg said that Sanguis Venenatus was ″intensly felt″ and that the elegy was characterised by ″slow, aching lines and mild dissonances".[4]


The world première of Sanguis Venenatus was given on Saturday, 20 March 2010, at Todmorden Town Hall, by the strings of the Todmorden Orchestra under conductor Nicholas Concannon Hodges. The première was followed by positive review describing the one–movement elegy as a first–hand musical metaphor for thousands of haemophiliacs given contaminated blood.[13] On Wednesday, 30 March 2011, the elegy received a second performance during a commemorative service at Westminster Abbey with the strings of the London Charity Orchestra under William Carslake. The service celebrated the 40th anniversary of the enactment of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970.[7][8]


The first known radio broadcast of Sanguis Venenatus was on WPRB 103.3 fm Princeton, New Jersey, on 28 November 2012.[14][15] On 14 January 2013, Sanguis Venenatus was aired on South Africa's dedicated classical station, Classic FM 102.7, and the elegy has since appeared on their regular playlist.[16] On 24 January 2013, Catalunya Ràdio, Barcelona, broadcast Sanguis Venenatus with a subtitle in the playlist describing the piece as "elegia per a orquestra de corda".[17] On Monday, 25 February 2013, Sveriges Radio P2 gave the first broadcast of Sanguis Venenatus on 'P2 Klassiskt' in Sweden.[18] The elegy subsequently became a regular feature of the P2 playlist.[19] Sanguis Venenatus received its first radio broadcast in Hungary on Thursday, 16 January 2014, during a programme called "Ars Novo" on Budapest's dedicated classical station, MR3 Rádió Bartók.[20]

Sanguis Venenatus was broadcast in the UK for the first time on 9 October 2015. The elegy was introduced by Verity Sharp on Late Junction on BBC Radio 3.[1][21] In keeping with the 'tainted blood' theme, Sanguis Venenatus was broadcast on Canada′s Radio–Classique Québec on World AIDS Day, Friday, 1 December 2017.[22]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Thursday – Verity Sharp, Late Junction – BBC Radio 3". BBC.
  2. ^ "Sanguis Venenatus – Andrew March & Moravian Philharmonic Strings Song – BBC Music". BBC. Archived from the original on 2018-08-02.
  3. ^ "Composers – Alliance Publications, Inc".
  4. ^ a b Rosenberg, Donald (March 2013). "Eight works for string orchestra from four different orchestras". Gramophone. UK. Retrieved 2020-04-19.
  5. ^ a b "Reviews – Todmorden Orchestra". Todmorden Orchestra.
  6. ^ "Sanguis Venenatus" (2012) [Audio CD]. In Dimensions : works for string orchestra, Series: NV5895 Navona Records. London: RCM Library Catalogue, Royal College of Music.
  7. ^ a b "A service to mark the 40th anniversary of the coming into effect of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act (1970)" (PDF). Westminster Abbey. 30 March 2011. Retrieved 2020-04-18.
  8. ^ a b c d "Dimensions – Works for String Orchestra" (PDF). Navona Records.
  9. ^ de Bruxelles, Simon (16 January 2009). "Horrified twitchers watch as starving buzzard kills rare phalarope". The Times. London. Retrieved 2020-04-19.
  10. ^ "Buzzard kills rare visitor to British shores". The Guardian. London. 16 January 2009. Retrieved 2020-04-19.
  11. ^ Bok, Amanda, ed. (April 2013). EHC Newsletter (Report). Brussels: European Haemophilia Consortium (EHC). p. 27. Retrieved 2020-04-20. Andrew March: Elegy dedicated to victims of contaminated blood
  12. ^ Dimensions – Works for String Orchestra. OCLC 1114084658.
  13. ^ Issac, Stuart (20 March 2010). "Reviews: March 20th 2010, Todmorden Town Hall". Todmorden Orchestra. Retrieved 2020-04-22.
  14. ^ "News updates for Sanguis Venenatus". 2012-08-28. Archived from the original on 2018-08-23. Retrieved 2020-04-24.
  15. ^ "Classical Discoveries". WPRB 103.3 FM. 28 November 2012. Retrieved 2020-04-24. Sanguis Venenatus (Tainted Blood)
  16. ^ "Playlist Classic FM South Africa" (PDF). 2013-01-14. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-08-23. Retrieved 2020-04-25.
  17. ^ "Sanguis Venenatus, elegia per a orquestra de corda". Catradio FM. Catalunya Ràdio. 24 January 2013. Retrieved 2020-04-25.
  18. ^ "Spellista P2 Klassiskt (Playlist)" (PDF). 2005-04-30. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-01-15. Retrieved 2020-05-02.
  19. ^ "Spelningar av Andrew March med låten Sanguis Venenatus". Radiofy (in Swedish). 25 February 2013. Retrieved 2020-05-02. Här finner du alla spelningarna sedan 2013–02–25 av Andrew March med låten Sanguis Venenatus. Låten är 06:03 lång och har spelats 66 gånger bland våra 437 radiokanaler.
  20. ^ "MR3 Rádió Bartók" (PDF). 16 January 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2019-05-01. Retrieved 2020-05-02.
  21. ^ BBC Radio 3 [@BBCR3MusicBot] (9 October 2015). "Now Playing March, Moravian Philharmonic Strings – Sanguis Venenatus" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  22. ^ "Pièces – Radio–classique" (PDF). 1 December 2017. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2019-12-16. Retrieved 2020-05-02.

External linksEdit