About this Recording
8.572417 - RUEDA, J.: Sinfonia No. 3, "Luz" / Imaginary Journey (Asturias Symphony, Valdes)
English  Spanish 

Jesús Rueda (b. 1961)
Sinfonía No. 3 ‘Luz’ • Viaje imaginario: Francisco Guerrero in memoriam


…you’re in a plane flying at an altitude of ten thousand feet when suddenly, a hatch opens and you’re pushed out into the void…From then on, there’s nothing but a never-ending fall as you plummet through stratus and cumulus clouds, buffeted by air currents both warm and cold; you’re barely aware of anything except a sense of downward motion, at times speeding up, then slowing down, as if you’re suspended then falling into nothingness. After this seemingly endless plunge towards the void, all of a sudden you feel as if something intangible is beginning to halt your fall, something ascendant and luminous that gradually transforms the sense of descent into a shining image radiating light into the space all around you. This, perhaps, is the inspiration behind the final movement, Hacia la luz (Towards the light), of Jesús Rueda’s Third Symphony.

The symphony was a while in the making: its journey “towards the light” began in autumn 2004 and ended with its première in 2007, the work having developed through various stages along the way. The starting point was a commission from the Community of Madrid Orchestra (ORCAM) and its conductor, José Ramón Encinar, for a symphonic-choral piece, which resulted in El viaje múltiple (The Multiple Journey), given its première in early 2005. The next step was the Third Symphony, ‘Luz’ (Light), commissioned by the Asturias Symphony Orchestra and conductor Maximiano Valdés. This was first performed in February 2007, although at that point one of its movements, La Tierra (Earth), was not quite finished. This portrait of the “blue planet” was given its première in June of that year by the Royal Symphony Orchestra of Seville, with Pedro Halffter at the helm, as a complement to Holst’s unfinished suite The Planets.

It was only for this recording, made in August 2008, that the composer was finally able to realise the complete and definitive version of his symphony. It is the longest work so far in his catalogue, and captures much of his overall vision of the world and of music. Here are some of his own thoughts on this musical and symbolic voyage: “Symphony No. 3, ‘Luz’ is made up of five movements and, generally speaking, is a response to the magnetic pull I feel on me from the pathos of the free-flowing orchestral form and the visual and graphic stimulus of nineteenth- and twentieth-century art. I must admit, I like large orchestral forces, a sort of orgy of sound with multiple lines at play together; I’m attracted by dense and dazzling textures filled with colour and dynamism, rhythmic proliferations, and sound limits that lead to the edge of the abyss.

“As is true of most of my music, the expressive intention behind this work goes beyond the strictly musical. Its aim is to transcend the speculative and structural dimension in order to represent a soundworld linked to the sensory, in all its manifestations. Formally, these are journeys flowing across sound, infinite paths of no return: a metaphor for the river that flows inexorably along its natural course, passing through ever-changing landscapes on its route to the ocean.

“In this work I’ve tried to stretch and tighten the discourse more than in my previous symphonies, challenging the writing process, in a way, as regards both the structure of the different movements and their orchestration. You could say that the symphony has grown upwards and outwards. Pushing the materials involved to the limits of their resistance also generates the level of tension I was so keen to achieve.” (Jesús Rueda)

The first four movements allude to the four basic elements of antiquity: fire, water, earth and air. The fifth, Towards the light, refers back to the symphony’s overall title and summons us to a final ritual.

The symphony opens with El Fuego (Fire), in which a brisk ostinato is overlaid by rapid figurations for woodwind and longer lines for the brass. This short movement is related to the third movement of Rueda’s Second Symphony, “Acerca del límite” (Close to the limit), bringing a sense of unity to the symphonies as a corpus, an Ariadne’s thread unifying the cycle.

El Agua (Water) treats a diatonic theme to a number of variations, through which it undergoes inversion, retrograde, imitation and so on. There is also a numerical pattern to the theme which generates the rhythm characterising the entire movement. A passage featuring wooden percussion and timpani glissandi acts as a bridge into the third movement.

The strings open La Tierra (Earth) at a vertiginous tempo. The first section is agitated and breathless throughout, like a constantly spinning turbine, the rest of the orchestra gradually joining in until the music resolves into a rhythmic second section defined by brass and percussion, beneath an oppressive line of rapid arabesques, led by the winds and clearly influenced by late-period Miles Davis. The third section is a resounding orchestral tutti which yields briefly to an episode of piano trills before returning to the earlier intensity. As mentioned above, La Tierra can be performed separately from the symphony as a complement to Holst’s Planets.

After the earlier movements in which speed and density are the main protagonists, El Aire (Air) provides some welcome respite. The atmosphere lightens and the tempo slows. Solo violin and cello float among the high notes on harmonic clouds that follow one another intermittently. Eventually the orchestra begins a crescendo and we travel through different regions and sonorities until we come to a placid, tranquil adagio, the music ultimately fading away. The final section here is a bridge into the fifth movement: a crescendo chorale for brass accompanied by two sets of tubular bells and other metal instruments.

The opening of the final movement, Hacia la luz, evokes a huge abyss above which are flying unknown birds, belonging to a time that does not exist. A tumultuous movement lifts us up and up until we reach a heroic peak. From here the music dissolves into a high line for the violins, connecting to the clarinets and then becoming an inevitable descent into the void, passing through different levels and densities on the way down. Only in the last few minutes, as a crescendo builds and an intense flood of light fills the space, do we remember the heroic motif; then the music dissolves for good into a string harmonics chord. There is, in fact, a sense of the mystical in this ending, with its echoes of Blakeian imagery, the concept of moving towards the light—light as a magnetic and purifying force of life and its final journey.

Viaje imaginario (Imaginary journey), ‘Francisco Guerrero in memoriam’ was written in January 1998 while Rueda was composer-in-residence with the Spanish National Youth Orchestra (JONDE). “I remember we were staying in an old spa hotel in Cestona, in the Basque Country, and that the orchestra had the entire place to itself. The main lounge and the huge rooms reminded me of the legendary hotel in Kubrik’s The Shining. The long evenings I spent composing and the night-time walks I took in the mountains and by the river left an indelible mark on the character of this work. I was inspired by the unconditional support of so many young musician friends and of my publisher, Llorenc Caballero, but chiefly by memories of my teacher Francisco Guerrero, who had died three months earlier.”

By developing the extremes of registers and, above all, by combining the sounds of different instruments, Rueda here creates indeterminate sounds, similar in a way to the world of electroacoustics. At the beginning, an exploration of opposing registers brings us the sensation of space; this is then gradually filled as he superimposes chords that fluctuate in an enveloping, ecstatic sound. A trumpet call drags us out of this gentle flow to take us into a plastic world of reflecting light and shade. In the end, the chords fade away to leave the cellos’ last note hanging in nothingness.

Viaje imaginario is, to a certain extent, structurally similar to Ives’ The Unanswered Question and Lutosławski’s Interlude. It also has, as one might expect, a marked funereal tone. In this respect it is clearly linked to the motet Delicta juventutis, which was written in the fifteenth century by Pierre de la Rue on the death of Philip the Fair and conjures up a sense of melancholy through its use of descending figures.

Leticia Martín Ruiz
English version: Susannah Howe

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