for soprano or mezzo-soprano, clarinet, vibraphone and guitar

Anthony Gilbert

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for soprano or mezzo-soprano, clarinet, vibraphone and guitar

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Composer Anthony Gilbert
Year of Composition 2004
Duration ca.14'
Categories (all composers) ,
Catalogue ID ce-ag3e1


Spanish is a wonderful language to set – immensely singable, but also full of below-the-surface meaning, so in fact although translation of these six symbolist poems is at one level perfectly possible, the difficulty is to bring into English their hidden messages. My hope is that it’s possible to do so in music, setting the original Spanish. The cycle of poems concisely traces a young woman’s journey of self-discovery – of revelations at three levels: emotional, creative and spiritual – and exposes the conflicts between them. Magdalena Mismareza (= one who prays to herself) is the nom-de-plume of the writer of five of these poems, who prefers to remain anonymous. Of these five, one, La Torbellina, springs from an anonymous poem of the 15th or 16th century. The first line is the same, the last almost so, the expressed life’s aim rather more ambitious now. Hueca (Mismareza’s title) is an anonymous poem from the same quinientos period.  From the cycle’s mid-point, the instrumental music becomes in each successive song less florid, more ostinato, ending with the quiet sound of bells.

1. Tinos (senses): the poet celebrates three stages of emergence into a new state of being using symbols of colour: from dove-grey through roseate shades to a revelation in carmine.

2. Frescura (cool): a poem full of word-play and double meaning. The young woman seeks to draw her inspiration – poetic, erotic, spiritual or all three – from the spirit of a spire, breathing in its silken exhalations in her imagination.

3. Filis (grace): body-language symbolising four stages in the discovery of physical (or it could be spiritual) love.

4. La Torbellina (a woman as whirlwind): rebellion at the thought of becoming a nun. Whether or not a man wants me, it’s my poet’s cloak, not a nun’s habit, that will bring me tender fulfilment, for I’m a woman possessed.

5. Hueca (a woman emptied): alone and destroyed shall I go down to the waters of love and of sadness, and alone shall I bathe.

6. Ensueño (reverie): the abrasiveness of a nun’s habit is a sad substitute for her former silken robes, but dreaming of them brings, for an eternal moment, an ‘intrusion of happiness’. Or maybe it’s all a dream.

Encantos (charms, spells) was composed for Marie Vassiliou and Endymion in the present delicate scoring for clarinet, guitar and vibraphone. She performed Tinos at the Purcell Room in July 2004 with members of Endymion, a performance whose beauty engendered the succeeding five songs. A version for Marie and a larger ensemble was made in 2010.