2003 ENTRE EL OLIVO Y EL HOMBRE for mixed choir

ENTRE EL OLIVO Y EL HOMBRE (2003) for mixed choir a capella was written at the request of the Netherlands Chamber Choir (Nederlands Kamerkoor) upon a performance they gave in May 2001 of Du-Dich-Dir on poems by Paul Celan. The title is from a line in the Canción primera: ¡Qué abismo entre el olivo y el hombre se descubre! i.e. what an abyss is laid bare between man and the olive tree!

The work consists of seven poems by Miguel Hernández. They are arranged under the heading ‘Poems of War’, 1936-1939. The music of the poem el tren de los heridos, for male voices only, was taken from my Choirbook Part 1.

A few words about the music. When I write instrumental music I usually welcome any musical and instrumental idea that takes me into new territory. This attitude may lead to liberal experiments in the more eccentric regions of musical language and instrumental techniques. However, when I write music to existing lyrics, I find myself restrained by the sanctity of the words and the natural flow of the language, which I find impossible to distort. This seems to draw me into more conventional waters and the need to explore these to the outmost regions of their confines. Away from the path of ordinary four-part harmony and traditional counterpoint I discovered sonorities which can be achieved by subtly shifting and increasing complexities that only a choir of skilled individuals such as the Nederlands Kamerkoor is capable of.

The order of the poems shows a certain symmetry in the alternation of the voices:

Canción primerafemale voices2’30”
Sentado sobre los muertostutti8′
El tren de los heridosmale voices5′
El hambre Itutti5′
El hambre IItutti5′
El sudortutti5′
Canción ultimafemale voices2′

Entre el Olivo y el Hombre received its premiere performance during a concert tour of six cities in the Netherlands in February 2005. The Netherlands Chamber Choir was conducted by Peter Dijkstra. All performances were received with standing ovations and a beautiful recording was made of the last performance in Utrecht by radio NPS.

Click here to access the lyrics.