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Gabriela Lena Frank

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Songs of Cifar and the Sweet Sea (vocal version)
Text Writer
Pablo Antonio Cuadra
G Schirmer Inc
Solo Voice(s) and up to 6 players
Soprano, Baritone
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Programme Note
Gabriela Lena Frank Songs of Cifar and the Sweet Sea (vocal version)
Text: (Sp) Pablo Antonio Cuadra

Related works:
   Songs of Cifar and the Sweet Sea (choral version)
   Songs of Cifar and the Sweet Sea (vocal version)

Songs of Cifar and the Sweet Sea is a work in progress with multiple songs being added. Once complete, the piece will be a 70-minute song cycle for soprano, baritone, and piano. The songs, however, can be performed in any order and not all the songs have to performed at once.
Commissioned by Carnegie Hall
Premiered by Robert Gardner, baritone, and Molly Morkoski, piano at Weill Recital Hall on 10 October 2004:
     Me diste oh Dios una hija
     El Naciemiento de Cifar
     El niño
     El rebelde
     Tomasito, el cuque

Commissioned by the Marilyn Horne Foundation
Premiered by Andrew Garland, baritone, and Donna Loewy, piano at Zankel Hall on 26 January 2007
     Two Songs to texts of Pablo Antonio Cuadra
     En la Vela del Angelito
Composer Note:

Songs of Cifar and the Sweet Sea draws on poetry by the Nicaraguan poet Pablo Antonio Cuadra (1912-2002). As a young man, Cuadra spent more than two decades sailing the waters of Lake Nicaragua, meeting peasants, fishermen, sailors, woodcutters, and timber merchants in his travels. From such encounters, he was inspired to construct a cycle of poems that recount the odyssey of a harp-playing mariner, Cifar, who likewise travels the waters of Lake Nicaragua. In my initial reading of the poems, I was struck by how Cuadra writes of commonplace objects and people but ties them to the undercurrents of his country's past of indigenous folklore. Despite Cuadra's plain vocabulary, ordinary things are thus rendered mythical, revealing Cifar's capacity for wonder and passionate lyricism.

Knowing that I had a treasure trove of poetry to spark my composer's imagination, I sent out to choose a limited selection of poems to set, but it wasn't long before I knew that I would have to set them all, making for a full evening-length program. In addition, I knew I would have to broaden my vision to include another singer — Cifar, represented by a baritone drawing on traditional Nicaraguan vocal practices, would need a female singer to carry the many women that figure in his life. And finally, while my experience accompanying singers tells me that the piano is an admirable lieder partner, perfectly suited to evoke typical Nicaraguan marimba and guitar sounds, I also know that upon the song cycle's completion, I will create another version scoring the piano part for full orchestra.

— Gabriela Lena Frank

Sample Pages

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The most interesting music came from composer Gabriela Lena Frank, with a handful of selections from a projected evening-length song cycle, "Songs of Cifar and the Sweet Sea." I couldn't divine what the texts by Nicaraguan poet Pablo Antonio Cuadra were about (hint to concert presenters: There's no point in providing audiences with song texts if you keep the lights down during the performance), but Frank's settings sounded robust and evocative. In the first and most exciting song, a dense, roiling piano accompaniment (played with dazzling virtuosity by Anna Polonsky) seconded the singer's emotional turmoil, evinced by blustering rhythms and tightly drawn internal dialogues.
Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle,8/9/2008
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