About this Recording
8.573602 - PAÚS, R.: Viola Works - Madera Ocaso / Cobalto azul, en tránsito / Elegía primera, la deriva (Gotlibovich, Catalan Chamber Orchestra, Pàmies)
English  Spanish 

Ramón Paús (b. 1956)
Madera Ocaso • Cobalto azul, en tránsito • Elegía primera, la deriva


The Israeli viola player Yuval Gotlibovich came to my house one day for a first read-through of Cobalto azul, en tránsito, a piece I had written for solo viola and string orchestra and whose première he was to give on 9th June 2013 at the Teatro Nacional in Panama City. During a break in our rehearsal, I played him a video of pianist Eduardo Fernández—Yuval was captivated by his artistry and expressed a desire to meet him. Given that I knew both of them, I thought the ideal way of bringing them together would be for me to write a new work for viola and piano. That idea led to the creation of Madera Ocaso (‘Wood Sunset’), which Yuval and Eduardo later premièred at Madrid’s Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. As I was writing it, I was aware of the need to keep the incredible musicianship of both players very much in mind and to make sure I created a dialogue between equals. Much of Madera Ocaso is taken up with a series of comings and goings, as the two instruments play together and apart, exploring different ways of existing and producing sound, from bariolage effects on the viola that form escarpments against which pound incendiary piano chords, to agile and repetitive arpeggios on the piano from which emerge light and incandescent viola melodies. All of this leads to a final Adagio which perhaps helps us understand what has gone before.

In contrast to Madera Ocaso, in Cobalto azul, en tránsito (‘Cobalt blue, in transit’) the viola takes on a clear solo rôle, interacting with a string orchestra and making the most of its enormous agility and range of colour. The opening monologue poses a series of questions that will later be assimilated and restated by the orchestra, here playing with the lightest of touches. At times the viola tackles lines that are similar to the vertiginous improvisations of jazz, but it also seeks out moments of calm, and allows itself to be lulled by gentle, static chords on the orchestral strings. Eventually, the solo instrument displays all its dramatic potential and colour in the Largo that leads us to the end of the piece. In this section I have tried to generate a melody that comes across as infinite, going straight through the customs channels of lyrical abstraction and modality without having to declare anything at all, as if it were travelling in a diplomatic bag. It would be wonderful to have achieved that, if only fleetingly.

My friend Edith Maretzki was part of the First Violin section of the Orchestra of the Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona for almost two decades. She died prematurely, and her widower, the film-maker Gerardo Gormezano, with whom I had worked before, sent me a text entitled Elegía primera, la deriva (‘First elegy, the drift’), expressing the moment in which the true pain of loss is beginning to manifest itself head on.

A few days later, given the beauty of Gerardo’s elegy, I asked him if I could use what he had written as the basis for a work dedicated to Edith’s memory. I can’t deny that there were moments of terrible grief and hesitation during the composition process—I could not help putting myself in Gerardo’s shoes. I particularly struggled when it came to setting the phrase about not knowing whether or not to say goodbye (“… no sé si despedirte o si es ahora que has llegado…”), because every time I tried, a sense of loss simply overwhelmed me.

Gerardo suggested that I note down my thoughts and concerns during the composition process. We therefore have a logbook describing the slow growth of Elegía primera, la deriva, and I include a few excerpts from my notes here below:

13/11/2013… Morning

The tubular bells are giving a sense of atavism and premonition, deep, mellow vibraphone chords are allowing me to cut through and travel towards more luminous spaces, the languid nature of the harp in its middle and lower registers is giving me the subtlety of the sunset … I’m making progress!!

15/11/2013… Morning

I’ve been thinking about creating a false structure that would give an illusory sense of security then, later in the work, abandoning that structure. I’ve also considered writing different tonal treatments for what I see as the different parts of the text. Now I’m heading for the piano to let myself be swayed by the music of the words—they are going to be the yin to the yang I haven’t found yet.

11/1/2014… Morning

I needed to take this time away so as not to lose all objectivity—I was finding the work too painful and had to take a break from it. I’ve decided not to use an alto voice after all, as the text is written from such a masculine perspective. So, I’ve written it for a Liszt-style chorus of tenors and baritones.

There are now bright sparks dotted throughout the score; I need to see if there are ways of linking them; I’ve worked out how to create a link out of a tiny melodic cell to lead us towards the end.

Elegía primera, la deriva was premièred on 15th November 2015 at the Barcelona Contemporary Culture Centre, where it was also recorded for this album, in sessions that began the following day.

Ramón Paús
English translation by Susannah Howe

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