Skip to page content

Composed: 2001-02

Length: c. 22 minutes

Orchestration: 2 flutes (2nd = alto flute and piccolo), oboe, English horn, clarinet, bass clarinet, basset horn, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, percussion (chimes, marimba, tam-tam, vibraphone), harp, celesta, strings, and solo soprano

First Los Angeles Philharmonic performances

Golijov grew up in Argentina, in a family that had settled there in the 1920s from Romania and the Ukraine. With a mother who taught piano, he grew up surrounded by music: classical chamber music, Jewish liturgical and Klezmer music, as well as the new tango of Astor Piazzolla. The songs on this program were each originally written for separate works and occasions; Golijov rearranged them and collected them to form Three Songs for Soprano and Orchestra.

For the past seven years, Golijov has been inspired by the voice of Dawn Upshaw. Their collaboration began in 1999 with Lúa Descolorida, a single song written for Upshaw. In the composer's words: "Lúa Descolorida, a poem by Lorca's beloved Rosalia de Castro written in Gallego (the language of the Galicia region in Spain), defines despair in a way that is simultaneously tender and tragic. The musical setting is a constellation of clearly defined symbols that affirm contradictory things at the same time… The strongest inspiration for Lúa Descolorida was Dawn Upshaw's rainbow of a voice, and I wanted to give her music so quietly radiant that it would bring an echo of the single tear that Schubert brings without warning in his voicing of a C-major chord. The original version of this song was commissioned by the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition and premiered by Dawn Upshaw and Gilbert Kalish in April 1999." It was later incorporated into Golijov's Pasión según San Marcos.

The first of the Three Songs, the cinematic Night of the Flying Horses (from Sally Potter's movie The Man Who Cried, about the doomed love between a young gypsy man and a Jewish woman) includes the Yiddish lullaby "Close Your Eyes," as well as a "doina" (a mournful style of Romanian song) and a "gallup" - a theme Golijov says he "stole" from his friends, the gypsy band Taraf de Haidouks, who played on the movie's soundtrack.

In How Slow the Wind, a setting of two short Emily Dickinson poems, Golijov responds to a friend's death in an accident. 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." In the words of Dickinson, "How slow the wind, how slow the sea, how late their feathers be!"

- Jessie Rothwell is a freelance musician and writer living in Los Angeles.

04/07