3(III=picc).3.3.3.cbsn – 4.3.2.btrbn.1 – perc(3): crot/glsp/t.bells/cyms/snare drum/wind chimes/4 wine glasses – pno – harp – strings (large section preferred)
Full score, vocal score and parts for hire
'From honeyed melancholy to sparkling clarity. Lovely‘
Dagens Nyheter (Maria Schottenius), 14 February 2016
'Tailor-made for Fleming‘s delicious, creamy voice... The introduction hangs breathlessly in the orchestra while the vocal part draws a desolate outline of the thinking protagonist. Hillborg can animate the instrumental landscape like no other and captures the poet’s erotically charged melancholy. Later, the elegiac beauty breaks out into a surreal, shadowy study of the fallen "angels" in the shabby port area - a furious scherzo with Bernstein-style riffs.‘
Dagens Nyheter (Camilla Lundberg), 12 February 2016
'Hillborg‘s word painting appeals to the inner imagination - fervently interpreted by Fleming.‘
SvD (Lars Hedblad), 11 February 2016
'The Strand Setttings are provocative, great music. Languorous and painful at the same time.‘
Aftonbladet (Mikael Strömberg), 21 November 2014
'Hillborg has created a shimmering landscape of eloquence, unusual colors and mystery, and when coupled with Strand’s writing, the result makes potent listening. “The Black Sea” opens with an arresting, ethereal orchestral chord—impossible to dissect at first hearing, but all the more beautiful for that—and the soprano floating above in a luminous recitative as she gazes from a rooftop, looking out over the night sea. In the second part, “Dark Harbor XX,” the orchestra seems to remain almost motionless as the singer recounts memories of a past love.
Tempi become more animated in “Dark Harbor XXXV” and in the finale, “Dark Harbor XI,” one last reminiscence is buoyed by the ensemble’s sweeping texture, slowly turning and sparkling as if in twilight. The large orchestra—usually reined in at a dynamic level of no louder than mezzo-forte—is augmented by some fascinating percussion sonorities, including wind chimes and four wine glasses (a “glass harmonica”). With Ms. Fleming effortlessly gliding through the texts, and Gilbert and the ensemble creating magic, it was no surprise that everyone—including Hillborg and Strand—received huge ovations right before intermission.‘
Seen and Heard International (Bruce Hodges), 10 May 2013
'An impressive piece... worth waiting for. At once atmospheric, elegiac and unsettling, the work was crafted with Ms. Fleming’s creamy voice in mind, and she sang beautifully... Taken together, the four Strand poems selected for this cycle make a rumination on love and desire in its mysterious and acutely real dimensions. In the first, “The Black Sea,” the narrator climbs to the roof of a house to gaze at the sea during a “whispering night,” waiting for something, a sign, or someone. It is not clear. Mr. Hillborg sets the words in a quasi-recitative style, though with fleeting lyrical phrases and bursts of agitation. The orchestra at first heaves with thick, subdued chords but soon settles into a shimmering, pungent sustained harmony. That shifting sonority, though transfixing, seems static. But listen closely and you hear inner voices colliding and astringent textures stacked thick with notes.
The next three poems are taken from Mr. Strand’s “Dark Harbor” series. “Dark Harbor XX” seems the lonely thoughts of someone experiencing a sensual kiss, or longing for one. The song continues the ruminative yet quietly dangerous mood already established. The final line is a question: “Is it you or the long compassionate wind/That whispers in my ear: alas, alas?” As the orchestra lingers on a tremulous harmony we hear penetrating soft, high tones from wineglass rims being rubbed with water.
In “Dark Harbor XXXV” the orchestra finally breaks loose into rising riffs and overlapping lines to convey the imagery of kisses “blown out of heaven,/Melting the moment they land.” In one surprisingly jazzy episode, the music breaks incongruously into what sounds like the fragment of a jaunty tune. It could be the “Anthem of Dark Harbor.”
During stretches of the final song, “Dark Harbor XI,” the vocal lines took Ms. Fleming from chesty low-voiced phrases into soaring highs, which she delivered with sensual sound and wistful resignation. This organic song cycle may seem accessible on the surface. But the music keeps its secrets to itself and makes you want to hear it again to figure out more. The ovation lasted five minutes, which does not happen often with new works...'
The New York Times (Anthony Tommasini), 28 April 2013