After writing my first Neruda setting, Tu voz, for the LA Master Chorale’s High School Choral Festival in 2007, I was approached by Master Chorale colleagues Karen Hogle Brown and Scott Graff. They were interested in an adaptation of Tu voz for soprano/baritone duet, as well as additional companion pieces. I liked the idea, and returned to Cien Sonetos de Amor to see what other music was waiting to spring out of Neruda’s words to his beloved wife, Matilde.
Though I again pored over the entire one hundred sonnets, I might not have looked so far; I ended up choosing the very next sonnet, #53 (Tu voz happens to be #52). This new sonnet became Tu sangre en la mia (“Your blood in mine”). I also wrote a third, to sonnet #50, entitled Tu risa (“your laughter.”) Karen, Scott, and I were fortunate to premiere this set as winners of the Beverly Hills Audition competition in the 2009/2010 season in several LA-area venues, including Greystone Mansion.
The Austin-based chamber choir, Conspirare, in preparation for their recording “Pablo Neruda: The Poet Sings”, inquired if I might turn the soprano/baritone duet into a SATB choir piece, and I was delighted to do so. Tu sangre en la mia and Tu voz make a great pair, and Conspirare’s performance, led by music director Craig Hella Johnson, is sublime. And we were all thrilled when the recording was nominated for a Grammy! The album was also included on Gramophone’s Best of 2015 list of classical recordings.
from Donald Rosenberg’s Gramophone review, October 2015:
“Kirchner responds to Neruda’s texts about romantic and domestic love with two sonnets of rapturous lyricism, melding voices and piano in a series of lilting utterances.”
Here are the bread & wine, the table & the house:
a needs of a man, of a woman, of life.
To this place, peace rushed in, whirling round & round.
To make this light, a shared fire burned.
Hail to your two hands that fly, making
the white creations of kitchen and song.
Hail! the virtue of your busy feet,
long live the ballerina who dances with her broom!
Those rough rivers, with their currents and threat,
those tormented pavilions of foam,
those hives and reefs aflame:
today they are this respite of your blood in mine,
this path, star-strewn and blue as night,
this endless simplicity of tenderness.