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Federico García Lorca (1898-1936)

Tres poemas cantados / Three sung Poems (On texts by Federico García Lorca)

For Voice and Piano

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Federico García Lorca's poetry has attracted composers, both Spanish and foreign, on a large number of occasions as a starting point for the creation of musical works that range from lied to opera. This is not only justice towards one of the best poets of 20th century, but it is largely due to the many and varied musical aspects that impregnate his poetry, with which each composer can identify according to his aesthetic attitude: from the popular to the cultured, from the rhythmic to the lyrical, or from the sensual to the dramatic, there is not a line in all of Lorca's poetry that does not admit its translation to the staff, providing a magnificent support to the musical discourse, guaranteeing a solid formal structure.
For these Tres poemas cantados I selected three poems, trying to find that contrast between them that is always desirable for a triptych of songs. Thus, the first poem is the Berceuse for the sleeping mirror, from the "Suite of mirrors", in which the message of calm in the face of the threat of the lullaby is covered by a piano treatment in which a design of very few notes is repeated obsessively, almost hypnotically, in the high register of the instrument.

First edition of the Poema del cante jondo (1931)

The second poem, Saeta, comes from "Poema del cante jondo", and is conceived for solo voice, with two very brief piano interventions. The predominance of the low register gives it a certain dramatic air, from which the melody tries to escape by progressing towards the high register. Said last register is reached for two moments - "Look at him where he comes from!" and "Watch him where he's going!" -, which are nothing more than quotes from a popular saeta embedded in Lorca's poem. Since the complete text of this saeta is also quoted in the poem by José Muñoz Sanromán that serves as the basis for the movement entitled Holy Week, from Joaquín Turina's Canto a Sevilla, I have not been able to resist the temptation to launch a affectionate "wink" to my illustrious ancestor and make appear, as a burst, the fragment of said work in which said quote is sung.

Federico García Lorca at New York
Columbia University (ca. 1930)

The work closes with the poem entitled Landscape with two tombs and an Assyrian dog, from "Poeta en Nueva York". It is a very complex text, like all those that make up this collection of poems, in which a series of seemingly unconnected dreamlike images follow one another, typical of the most exacerbated surrealist aesthetic. Although the music is forced to go hand in hand with the text, it tends to relate its different sections through the use of recurrent thematic material, which tries to avoid a dangerous formal dispersion.

Miguel Zanetti and María José Montiel (ca. 1994)

The Tres poemas cantados, composed in Madrid throughout the month of October 1993, were premiered on January 19, 1994 in Barcelona, by María José Montiel and Miguel Zanetti, within a concert made up of works for voice and piano. based on texts by Federico García Lorca, to whose memory they are dedicated.

First page of the first movement of Tres poemas cantados

First page of the second movement of Tres poemas cantados

First page of the third movement of Tres poemas cantados



Berceuse al espejo dormido

No temas la mirada

Ni la mariposa,
ni la palabra,
ni el rayo furtivo
de la cerradura
te herirán.

Como mi corazón,
así tú,
espejo mío.
Jardín donde el amor
me espera.

Duérmete sin cuidado,
pero despierta,
cuando se muera el último
beso de mis labios.

(De la Suite de los espejos, 1923)


Berceuse for the sleeping mirror

Do not fear the gaze
that wanders.

Not the butterfly
or the word
or the furtive ray
from the keyhole
will hurt you.

As my heart
so you,
mirror of mine.
Garden where love
awaits me.

Sleep without a care,
but wake
when the last one dies
the kiss on my lips.

Translated by A. S. Kline



Cristo moreno
del lirio de Judea
a clavel de España.

¡Miradlo por dónde viene!

De España.
Cielo limpio y oscuro,
tierra tostada,
y cauces donde corre
muy lenta el agua.
Cristo moreno,
con las guedejas quemadas
los pómulos salientes
y las pupilas blancas.

¡Miradlo por dónde va!

(Del Poema del cante jondo, 1921)



Dark Christ
from lily of Judaea
to carnation of Spain.

See where he comes!

Of Spain.
Clean dark sky,
Sun-browned earth,
and riverbeds whose water
creeps by.
Dark Christ,
scorched locks of hair
high cheekbones
and white pupils.

See where he goes!

Translated by Martin Sorrell


Paisaje con dos tumbas y un perro asirio

levántate para que oigas aullar
al perro asirio.
Las tres ninfas del cáncer han estado bailando,
hijo mío.
Trajeron unas montañas de lacre rojo
y unas sábanas duras donde estaba el cáncer dormido.
El caballo tenía un ojo en el cuello
y la luna estaba en un cielo tan frío
que tuvo que desgarrarse su monte de Venus
y ahogar en sangre y ceniza los cementerios antiguos.

despierta, que los montes todavía no respiran
y las hierbas de mi corazón están en otro sitio.
No importa que estés lleno de agua de mar.
Yo amé mucho tiempo a un niño
que tenía una plumilla en la lengua
y vivimos cien años dentro de un cuchillo.
Despierta. Calla. Escucha. Incorpórate un poco.
El aullido
es una larga lengua morada que deja
hormigas de espanto y licor de lirios.
Ya viene hacia la roca. ¡No alargues tus raíces!
Se acerca. Gime. No solloces en sueños, amigo.

Levántate para que oigas aullar
al perro asirio.

(De Poeta en Nueva York, 1930)


Landscape with two tombs and an Assyrian dog

get up so you can hear
the Assyrian dog howling.
The three nymphs of the cancer have been dancing,
my son.
They brought mountains of red sealing wax
and the course sheets where cancer slept.
The horse had an eye in its neck
and the moon was in a sky so cold
that it had to rip open its mound of Venus
and drown the old cemeteries in blood and ash.

wake up, the mountains still do not breathe
and the grass in my heart is elsewhere.
It does not matter that you are full of sea water.
I loved a boy for a long time
who had a feather under his tongue
and we lived one hundred years inside a knife.
Wake up. Be silent. Listen. Sit up a little.
The howling
is a great purple tongue that leaves behind
the ants of terror and the liquor of lilies.
It already comes near your rock. Don’t extend your roots!
It approaches. It moans. Don’t sob in your dreams, friend.

Get up so you can hear
the Assyrian dog howling.

Translated by Jim Doss


Recording: María José Montiel (soprano) and Miguel Zanetti (piano).
Madrid, Chamber Hall of the Music National Auditorium, February 14, febrero de 1995 (17th Cycle of Chamber and Poliphony of the Spanish National Orchestra)

I. Berceuse for the sleeping mirror
II. Saeta
III. Landscape with two tombs and an Assyrian dog

YouTube link:

I. Berceuse for the sleeping mirror
II. Saeta
III. Landscape with two tombs and an Assyrian dog


Video of the concert performed by Claudia Yepes (soprano) and Duncan Gifford (piano)

Madrid, Teatro Monumental, March 2005 (9th Cycle of Camber Music of the Spanish Radio Television Orchestra.

I. Berceuse for the sleeping mirror

II. Saeta

III. Landscape with two tombs and an Assyrian dog


The Lorca musician
By Álvaro Guibert
(Review published in the newspaper La Razón. Madrid, January 2, 1999)

The recital was splendid and very varied, despite being monographic. María José Montiel once again showed off her beautiful voice, full of life in the bass, powerful in the treble and always controlled. Montiel turns each concert song into theater, and not only because of her attitude on stage, but mainly because of the enormous expressive efficiency of her singing. She sang it all very well, but the highlight was the moving "Saeta" by José Luis Turina. At the piano, Miguel Zanetti was in top form.

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(Score without watermarks available at www.asesores-musicales.com )