Songs of Li Po

Jonathan Harvey (1939)

Songs of Li Po 2002

Duration 
15
Solist 
Text Author 
Language 
Commissioner 
Publisher 

Songs of Li Po was commissioned by the Aldeburgh Festival. Three poems by Li Po are set for mezzo-soprano, twenty strings, two percussion and harpsichord. With a sideways glance at Mahler - who set very romanticised translations of the eighth century Li Po in Das Lied von der Erde - a mezzo is used and pentatonic harmonies too. David Hinton's translations bring out the curious elliptical style of the original, cutting out small connecting words in a chiselled style suggesting absolute presence in the Nature about which the poet writes. Li Po is a solitary wanderer who, with buddhist detachment and sometimes wry humour, glides through awesome landscapes caring nothing for health or safety. His rapture is one of identification: and the work progresses from the tumultuousness of mountain cascades to the silence of sitting before a mountain and ceasing to be - a transcendent diminuendo.

Jonathan Harvey

Performances 
20.6.02, Aldeburgh Festival, Snape Maltings Concert Hall: Sarah Connolly/Northern Sinfonia/Pierre-André Valade
26.6.02 Northern Stage, Newcastle: Sarah Connolly/Northern Sinfonia/Pierre-André Valade
27.10.08 ISCM World Music Days, Lithuania: Nora Petrocenk / Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra / Robertas Servenikas
28.1.12 Total Immersion, Barbican Hall, London: GSMD students / Richard Baker
2
Percussion
2 small drums, temple block, woodblock, 2 small drums, tubular bells, 11 tuned Thai gongs, 2 guero, 2 triangle, steel pans
5
Violin
5
Violin II
4
Viola
4
Cello
2
Double bass
1
Other
harpsichord
(Esc)