About this Recording
9.70233 - PINHO VARGAS, A.: Verses and Nocturnes (Northern Sinfonia, Vaganza, Brönnimann)
English  Portuguese 

António Pinho Vargas (b. 1951)
Verses and Nocturnes


Nocturno/Diurno (1994)

The string sextet Nocturno/Diurno (1994) was the first piece in which I used material from previous works. In a sense it begins where the string quartet Monodia (1993) ends, and the melodic material employed in the higher registers is a possible variant of this. The contrasting sections which explain the title derive from a section of Poetica dell’a estinzione for flute and string quartet (1990), maintaining the pulsation and polyrhythm but making the harmony considerably more diatonic. The three kinds of music here present are related by alternation and superimposition / disfiguration during the course of the piece.

The work was commissioned by the Municipal Council of Oporto in 1994 and premièred by the Sextuor L’Artois de Lille.

Nine Songs of António Ramos Rosa (1995–1996)

In recent years for each piece I have composed, I have written a brief theory. It is not worked out before or after but during the actual composition. More specifically, there exists some theory before, but it has to do principally with some ideas on the actual state of the musical creation and its context. There is some theory afterwards, but with the intention of bringing together and formulating overall the principles which inform the piece. This text belongs to this last category (theory-afterwards). I begin with the theory before. I believe that today (1996) composers have at their disposal musical objects of all kinds. A perfect chord has a past which is historically circumscribed, a dodecaphonic series likewise, an irrational rhythm also, a regular pulse ditto and so on. I think there are today no tenable reasons for utilising only a part of these objects, in the name of some ‘idea of the future’ of music. For this reason I use those which seem to me to be the best at the time. It is not possible to reconstruct the tonal system as it existed in the 18th and 19th centuries. But its objects, connected to the inexorable existence of the harmonic series may, in my view, be used as well as any others. The idea of exhaustion, like a boomerang, always returns, reaching new languages and rapidly making them old. The problem for me is the discourse, not the vocabulary. I am not alone in this conviction, but I oblige nobody to agree with it.

The theory-during was in this case determined by the beautiful poems by António Ramos Rosa (from the book A intacta ferida). Obviously, before beginning the composition, I read the poems. And some of them, and at times some of the words within a poem, triggered a response. Some examples: in the poem tacteio sobre o branco the word tacteio (touch) allowed me some associations with specific musical elements such as staccato, esitando, the transition from the sung to the spoken, etc.; in the poem o que escrevo por vezes, the verse um espaço intacto e puro suggested in the context created in the mean time a perfect cadence; the verse um gesto que procura a origem led me to an isolated musical figure which, as well as being a musical gesture as such requires a determined physical gesture of the pianist; the verse será que o mundo escuta? obliged me to interrupt the musical argument, introducing a foreign element which requires a different kind of listening, etc. This piece was commissioned by the Spring Musical Encounters, organised by the Convivio Cultural Association of Guimarães, under the artistic direction of Helena Sá e Costa, and was first performed in 1995 by Rui Taveira and Jaime Mota.

The above programme note was written in March 1996 for a concert at the Teatro Nacional de São Carlos. Subsequently, I added a ninth song to the words of the poem É por aqui mas o caminho é trémulo, which was premièred at Serralves.

Três Versos de Caeiro (1997)

Normally I like to write about my pieces, and, very often this is really an absolute need. Unfortunately this is not the case for this piece. This text required therefore a special effort.

1. There are several aspects in which this work is linked to another, Três Quadros para Almada. In the first place, the division of the instrumentation into three more-or-less homogenous groups. Secondly, the external connection with the work of an artist. In the case of Três Quadros, through the imaginary titles of non-existent paintings, in the case of Três Versos, through the inclusion of three verses of the Assorted Poems of Alberto Caeiro at the beginning of each of the movements. They are not subtitles, but function as a poetic programme for the performance. The anti-metaphysical or naturalistic ideology of Caeiro’s poetry—‘things are as they are’—is useful for me at present. The three Verses used are:

I. Pouco me importa Pouco me importa o quê? Não sei, pouco me importa.
II. … outras vezes oiço passar o vento que passa …
III. Se eu morrer muito novo, oiçam isto: Nunca fui senão uma criança que brinca.

2. There are half a dozen elements which organise the piece: a chord of six notes, a dyad; a figure in the second verse, used canonically or vertically through a structure of transpositions derived from the first chord; the third verse written around the dyad B–C#.

3. The third verse is for me a kind of hommage à Kurtàg, an acknowledgement to a composer who seems to cement the poetic programme of Caeiro. This piece was commissioned by The Gulbenkian Foundation for the 1997 Encounters.

Seven Songs of Albano Martins (2000)

Of the Seven Songs of Albano Martins, I wish to say two things. Firstly, that the poet was my teacher of Latin in the academic year of 1968-69, and belongs with those rare teachers who, just by being the way they are, change one’s person irrevocably; secondly, having known his poetry for many years, I chose poems from the 1998 book Escrito a Vermelho, and grouped them in two or three categories for my own use: the limits of the creator, the work of the poet, the unfortunate state of the world. I found out shortly after beginning the work that António Ramos Rosa wrote a book entitled Vinte Poemas para Albano Martins, which reinforces the connections between the two song cycles. However, in relation to the music my laconism reaches its limit.

Thanks to IPAE for the grant which partially covers the cost of this recording, to Europarque, who ceded their hall with acceptable compensations, to the Northern Sinfonia, to Baldur Brönnimann, Rui Taveira, Paulo Lourenço and Jaime Mota, and to my old friend José Fortes, all of whom in addition to their invaluable artistic support, made themselves completely available, and without whom this recording would not exist. And this has no price.

António Pinho Vargas
English translation by Ivan Moody

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