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Em Trevas (2023)

for three female voices, bass clarinet, double bass

Duration: 12 '

written for Cantando Admont

dedicated to Cordula Bürgi

Commission: Em Trevas was commissionned by the Osterfestival Tirol - Hall, funded by the Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung 

Premiere: 8 April 2023 - Osterfestival Tirol, Das Salzlager, Hall

performed by Elina Viluma-Helling (soprano), Filippa Möres-Busch (mezzosoprano), Cornelia Sonnleithner (alto), Marco Sala (bass clarinet), Alexandra Dienz (double bass), conducted by Cordula Bürgi


Osterfestival Tirol 2023 © Vicotr Malyshev

Three female voices, a double bass and a bass clarinet delineate the space of a singular nocturnal desert. These are the ghosts that inhabit Pessoa’s poetic imagery and the restless explorations of his Primeiro Fausto: a “subjective tragedy”, or the inner drama of one who, like Faust, seeks answers to impossible questions about the meaning of life and death. Faust appears as a naked soul, helpless before the visions of emptiness and abyss produced by the errors of reason. The pain and delirium he feels for his limited being start from the inner mystery of a soul until reaching the great collective mystery: human existence. The word “mistério” runs through the entire work and recurs obscurely among the fragments that seem to multiply endlessly, drawing fragile bridges of thought. Similarly in the score, the three female voices emerge from emptiness and silence singing “Tudo è mistéri”. They do so by whispering and fragmenting the words, making them drops of a “silent and deaf tide”. They repeat them obsessively as if to form a hypnotic labyrinth around which gravitate dreams and paths that plunge into abysses, for the abyss is the measure of the distance that separates souls. In a kind of sonic descriptivism, the abyss is associated with the extreme registers: the depths explored by the low register of the instruments and the light of the high registers of the voices, as if to remind us that darkness and light need their opposite in order to exist. The totality of Pessoa’s text is suggested by its very absence, and only a few fragments have been used in my work, in different ways: some recur insistently, becoming almost ruins of the original work, others appear in isolation, opening up unexpected breaches that enrich the main texture. The overall structure sprouts from an extremely reduced material that we hear in the opening and which finds nourishment in a network of successive references, outlining a perceptive experience that oscillates between processes of metamorphosis and juxtaposition. The fragmentary nature of the text is also a reflection of the senselessness of the world, devoid of accessible logic for the human mind, which must therefore surrender to a long sleep, in the hope of silencing thought, since “to think is to live in an endless night”. Thinking, in fact, makes us doubt our very existence and prompts us to question whether man can in fact only be a dream that someone dreams or a thought that someone thinks. The investigation does not even spare God, who in this logic becomes in turn “the man of another God”, in a whirling imagery of infinite possible worlds.

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