Songs of Li Po


by Jonathan Harvey

mezzo soprano, strings, percussion and harpsichord
Solo Voices with Orchestra
Li Po translated by David Hinton
perc(2): 2 small drums/ small drums/t.bells/11 tuned Thai gongs/2 guero/2 tgl/steel pans - harpsichord - strings (55442)

Commissioned by the Aldeburgh Festival

First Performance
20.6.02, UK, Aldeburgh Festival, Snape Maltings Concert Hall: Sarah Connolly/Northern Sinfonia/Pierre-André Valade

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Programme Notes
Songs of Li Po was commissioned by the Aldeburgh Festival. Three poems by Li Po are set for mezzo-soprano, twenty strings, two percussion and harpsichord. With a sideways glance at Mahler - who set very romanticised translations of the eighth century Li Po in Das Lied von der Erde - a mezzo is used and pentatonic harmonies too. David Hinton's translations bring out the curious elliptical style of the original, cutting out small connecting words in a chiselled style suggesting absolute presence in the Nature about which the poet writes. Li Po is a solitary wanderer who, with buddhist detachment and sometimes wry humour, glides through awesome landscapes caring nothing for health or safety. His rapture is one of identification: and the work progresses from the tumultuousness of mountain cascades to the silence of sitting before a mountain and ceasing to be - a transcendent diminuendo. Jonathan Harvey

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