|Genre Categories||; ; ;; ; ;|
|Work Title||Two Neruda Poems|
|Year/Date of CompositionY/D of Comp.||1971|
|First Performance.||1971-12-1 at Bennington College, Bennington, Vermont, Jan DeGaetani, soprano and Vivian Fine, piano|
|Average DurationAvg. Duration||12 minutes 45 seconds|
|Composer Time PeriodComp. Period||Modern|
|Instrumentation||Mezzo-soprano and piano|
The Neruda songs made a delicious pair, ‘La tortuga’ crawling along in hushed beauty and ‘Oda al piano’ closing the concert with a witty microdrama.
The two songs formed a stark contrast. ‘The Turtle’ is a gravely contemplative work, rich in magical stillness—and curiously tragic. But the second song, ‘Ode to the Piano,’ is a wild burlesque-illustration of the poem’s inside jokes. (Neruda pictures the piano as a ‘catafalque,’ with its teeth on the wrong side of its mouth—a mouth with ‘the jaws of leviathan.’) During all this, the piano soars and glides along, sometimes quoting bits of Romantic repertory—a snippet of Chopin Etude, for instance—practically ignoring the singer. As the ode concluded, [the singer] turned, lowered the open top; turned around, took the music off and closed the music rack (with Fine still playing), and eventually closed the keyboard lid. In effect, this is a song for piano, accompanied by a singer.
Best of all, in a way, was the final offering, two Pablo Neruda poems set to music by Vivian Fine. ‘La Tortuga’ was slow, low-placed, imaginative in its sonic pictorialization and beautifully timed and structured to reveal the philosophical implications of a poem describing a tortoise finally transcending his long life and joining ‘the other boulders.’ ‘Oda al piano’ was witty, stylish and dramatic in the playfulness with which both Neruda and Fine describe a surreal piano concert, ending with Friedman putting down her music, closing the piano lid finally closing the keyboard and walking off. Fine’s settings are resourceful but more than merely that, her music is both amusing and very serious, and these songs should enter the active repertory.