Osvaldo Golijov
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Three Songs for Soprano and Orchestra (2002): Notes
   [Texts] · [Notes] · [Reviews]
     See also notes for: Night of the Flying Horses, Lúa Descolorida, How Slow the Wind
 

Like most composers, Golijov's collaborations with important performers have helped shape the path of his career. Along with the BSO and the Kronos and St. Lawrence string quartets, Dawn Upshaw has been another strong supporter of the composer's work; she added the piano-voice song Lúa descolorida, later incorporated into Golijov's La Pasión Según San Marcos, to her repertoire some years ago, and, as indicated above, gave the first performances of the Three Songs (which includes an orchestration of Lúa descolorida) with the Minnesota Orchestra in March 2002. [Later this summer (August 10 and 11) she will sing the leading role in the Tanglewood Music Center's world premiere production of Golijov's new opera Ainadamar, which was commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra for the TMC.]

Lullaby, the theme of which occurs throughout Sally Potter's film, is a setting of a text by the director that was then translated into Yiddish. The music also works as a countermelody to the tenor aria "Je crois entendre encore" from Bizet's opera The Pearl Fishers, which in the film enables Christina Ricci's character's passage out of an English orphanage. The Gypsy-inflected improvisatory doina and the fast gallop music that follow the lullaby were influenced by (or, as Golijov says, stolen from) the composer's friends Taraf de Haïdouks, a group of Gypsy musicians. This music also appears in The Man Who Cried. The Romanian doina is a type of lyric song characterized by complex ornamentation and liberal, expressive use of rubato (tempo fluctuation). In the film, the gallop accompanies a scene in which a bicyclist (Christina Ricci) pursues a horseman (Johnny Depp).

Lúa descolorida, a lament about the "colorless moon," is the remorse-aria of the Apostle Peter in Golijov's La Pasión Según San Marcos, sung after Peter's threefold denial of his association with Jesus. Following the tradition of such arias, the text for Lúa descolorida is not from the Bible. Rather, Golijov sets a poem by the great Galician poet Rosalia de Castro (1837-1885) in the language of her native region in Spain. The present arrangement of the song is similar to that in the Pasión; the original version was for voice and piano.

How Slow the Wind, a setting of two short Emily Dickinson poems, was Golijov's response to the death of his friend Mariel Stubrin. He writes, "I had in mind one of those seconds in life that is frozen in the memory, forever—a sudden death, a single instant in which life turns upside down, different from the experience of death after a long agony." Originally for voice and string quartet, the piece was commissioned by Close Encounters with Music and was first performed in their Seiji Ozawa Hall concert of May 5, 2001, by Dawn Upshaw, soprano; Toby Appel and Justine Chen, violins; Kenji Bunch, viola, and Yehuda Hanani, cello.

—Robert Kirzinger/Boston Symphony Orchestra