Xavier Montsalvatge: Cançó amorosa

Written by Steven Blier

Artistic Director, NYFOS

In category: Song of the Day

Published May 21, 2018

I am at Wolf Trap this week working on a program called “The Art of Pleasure.” Why? Well, for the past eighteen months, I have been assaulted every morning by news of cruelty, greed, shortsightedness, and mendacity unlike anything I can remember. I know others also sense that the world is caving in—how is this being allowed to happen? So I thought: we need to take a moment to meditate on things that give pleasure. It will give us strength. I didn’t actually have any idea how I would make such a program, but once I started working on it the concert started to take on a life of its own, rambunctious and surprising. We start with sweetness and romance, but soon darker and more chaotic pleasures announce themselves, only to yield to the deeper pleasures of spiritual peace. It is, admittedly, a lot to cover in 90 minutes. 

The opening section is devoted to songs about the seaside and the sweetness of nature during the warm months. For this theme I turned to two Catalan composers, Eduardo Toldrà and Xavier Montsalvatge. Their best songs are beautiful enough to alleviate anxiety and instill optimism. Here’s “Canço amorosa” by Montsalvatge, one of my very favorite pieces of music. The poem describes a boat ride in August. The music manages to plough forward while luxuriating in languor, a perfect seduction out on a moonlit bay. Montsalvatge’s tangy Gershwin chords never fail to make life seem rosy. Here is a lovely performance by Ana Ibarra and Rubén Fernández. 

Cançó amorosa (Love song) [1948]

Music by Xavier Montsalvatge; poem by Tomas Garcés

Voldría ser mariner
i durte a la meva vora;
la vela iria pel mar
com un cavall blanc que corre,
el vent posaria olor de fonoll
entre les cordes
i l’ona es faria en llà
deixant el camí a la proa.

Passarien els vaixells
fent voleiar les banderes.
Mariners, cap on aneu,
cap on aneu tan de presa?
potser cerqueu un tresor
perdut en la mar deserta?

Jo els veuria com se’n van,
sense mica de recança.
Els teus ulls són mon tresor,
poc he de cercarne d’altre.
Quina joia, al teu costat,
veure la terra allunyarse
i seguir en les nits d’agost
les estrelles que es desmaten.

On tu giressis l’esguard
el vent ens hi portaria,
t’escoltarien la veu
els peixos i les gavines
els focs ardents de Sant Elm
a dalt dels pals s’encendrien
i veuries que al teu pas
la terra i el mar sospiren.

I would like to be a sailor
And have you beside me;
The sail would move through the sea
Like a white horse that runs,
The wind would smell of parsley
Between the ropes
And the wave would gather over yonder
Leaving a path for our prow.

Ships would pass by us
Waving their flags.
Sailors, where are you going,
Where are you going so fast?
Is it that you are looking for treasure
Lost in the deserted sea?

I would watch them go away
Without any regret.
Your eyes are my treasure,
I don’t have to seek any other.
What happiness at your side,
To see the land receding,
And to follow in the August nights
The stars that make us dizzy with pleasure.

Wherever you turn your glance
The wind would take us,
Your voice would be heard
By the fish and the seagulls.
The blaze of Saint Elmo’s fire
Would burst into flame at top of the mast
And you would see as you pass
The land and the sea sighing.

author: Steven Blier

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Called “the coolest dude in town” by Opera News, master collaborative pianist and coach Steven Blier is the co-founder and artistic director of New York Festival of Song. Here on No Song is Safe From Us, Steven blogs about the NYFOS Emerging Artist residencies, writes the engaging and erudite program notes for our Mainstage concerts, and contributes frequently to Song of the Day.


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