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Osvaldo Golijov’s music speaks to me. Ever since the performance in Boston of his glorious La Pasión según San Marcos in 2000, I have followed his eclectic, unexpected and, for me, ever redemptive work. Recent favorites include his opera about Federico García Lorca, Ainadamar, and Ayre, his hauntingly beautiful work featuring his personal muse, the singer Dawn Upshaw.

This July he released a recording of a piece that premiered over ten years ago. Oceana is based on an excerpt from Pablo Neruda’s Cantos Ceremoniales. Here is Golijob’s statement about the work, from his website:

My aim in Oceana was the transmutation of passion into geometry. This is, in my mind, the clue to both Bach’s and Neruda’s work. …[One hopes that the emotion evoked by the work] is the emotion of hearing order, inevitable and full of light: every note in its place, as in Bach, every word in its place, as in Neruda.

Giants such as Bach are fated to be used as mirrors by composers and performers of every era, who will see their own image reflected there. …In their own ways they were all correct in their fruitful misreadings of Bach’s music, and I feel that Oceana is my own misreading.

Neruda is our Latin American Bach. Like Bach, he is Midas, able as if by magic to transform everything on this Earth into poetry. …I think I have discovered the clue [to setting his poems to music]: Neruda’s voice is a chorus, too powerful for a single voice to handle…

I do hope that water and longing, light and hope, the immensity of South America’s nature and pain, are here transmuted into pure musical symbols, which nevertheless should be more liquid than the sea and deeper than the yearning that they represent. And if I have misunderstood Bach, then so be it.

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