Conspirare premieres a revised 2014 version of Donald Grantham’s (b.1947) work for choir, soloists, and violin during the September 2014 concert series “The Poet Sings: Pablo Neruda” at Bates Recital Hall, University of Texas at Austin. With Lauren Snouffer (soprano), James K. Bass (bass), and Stephen Redfield (violin). Craig Hella Johnson, conductor.
“Pablo Neruda once remarked, “In the house of poetry, nothing remains except that which was written with blood to be listened to by blood.” This comment (remarkably similar to Beethoven’s “from the heart to the heart” inscription for his Missa solemnis) perfectly captures the essence of the poet’s Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair. There is nothing abstract, idealized or intellectualized in these earthy, sensuous poems. They deal lyrically, expressively, and directly with the tumultuous feelings of men and women in love.
For my composition I have conflated “Love Poem XX – Puedo escribir” (“Tonight I can write …”) and “La canción desesperada” (“The Song of Despair”). The brooding poet is represented by the baritone soloist, while the soprano soloist takes the part of his lost lover. The solo violin plays a complex and demanding role in the work, frequently being called upon to create and then change the text’s contrasting and fluctuating moods. Sometimes the violinist functions as a third, textless “vocal” soloist, sharing the same musical material in duos and trios with the bass and soprano soloists. At other times the instrument provides elaborate, concerto-like passage work complementing the vocal writing. Like a Greek chorus in drama, the choir often sets the scene and comments upon the action, but just as frequently has its own independent role.”
—Donald Grantham, Notes from the 2015 Conspirare CD booklet, “Pablo Neruda: The Poet Sings”