Poetry by Líber Falco
Instrumentation: Soprano, Flute, Clarinet, Piano, Cello
Premiere: February 18, 2014
The songs we will hear tonight are drawn from a larger cycle devoted to texts of Uruguayan poet Líber Falco (1906-1955). When I first read the poem “Luna,” which opens this evening’s selections, I was struck by the exuberant, almost song-like euphony of the verse. Even before I had conceived of a single note for the piece, Falco’s words were singing to me with an ease and vibrancy that demanded their transcription.
My setting of “Luna” follows the poem’s three-stanza structure. The music of the first stanza attempts to infuse the narrator’s sense of distant wonder with an ethereal luminosity. Here, tiny gestures in the ensemble conspire in a mosaic-like texture, perhaps the illusion of starlight warped by the furtive turbulence of night air. In the second stanza, these fractured motives elongate into a recurring lament in the two wind instruments, interspersed with the soprano’s contemplation of the beauty and sadness that surrounds us.
Although Falco’s image of the moon is tinged in melancholy, we can take solace in his implication that, through death, we may find a return to our origins among the cosmic effervescence, so poignantly portrayed in the verse. The circular idea inspires the compositional foundation of the third stanza. Here, the music runs through each of the preceding sections of the piece in an accelerated retrograde, returning us at last to the primordial, kaleidoscopic weaving with which the movement began, evaporating into the moonlight.
“El Abismo” opens with a wandering vocalize that twists its way through a sparse, desolate wilderness of sound. Fragments of words (all from Falco’s first stanza) gradually cohere into longer, recognizable phrases. Yet even as the poem proper begins to emerge, individual syllables are at times isolated, protracted, and even reordered as the narrator’s pensive incantation reverberates through a black, cavernous dreamscape. The dim walls seem to close in as the instruments become extensions of the singer’s sliding consciousness. Distorted glissandi and coloristic echoes abound in the imagined abyss of dreams.
The designation “Sinfonía Nocturna” was Falco’s original title for his poem “En la noche,” included in my cycle (though not among this evening’s selections).
Selections from the Sinfonía were premiered on February 18, 2014. The musicians are Patrice Michaels (soprano), Emma Gerstein (flute), Amy Briggs (piano), and Russell Rolin (cello).
for soprano and chamber