Broken Branches is a short (3-minute) song/meditation for soprano, piano and double bass. It was written for a concert in NewYork in 1993 which featured a whole programme of ‘political songs’; composers were left free to choose their own subject matter. The conflict in the former Yugoslavia was then at one of its many furious peaks, and I made a transcription, from a recording, of a sad choral song from Croatia called ‘zaspo Janko pod jablonem’. The sleeve notes of the LP it was on contained a rather old-fashioned poetic translation (unattributed) of the words to the song, and it is this text that the soprano sings at the beginning and end of the song, interspersed with a longer wordless meditation, embroidered together with the lines of the two instruments.
‘Janko slept beneath a poplar
Darling, O my dearest one.
Broken branches all around him,
Darling O my dearest one.’
© Judith Weir