Three Songs

for alto voice and piano
composed 1986; duration 10 minutes
texts in Spanish by Francesco de Quevedo (1580-1645)
world premiere Copenhagen (Denmark) 1987
Regine Thorlund Berthelsen – alto; Ulla Kappel – piano

These songs were composed out of an interest for the poetry of the Spaniard Francesco de Quevedo. The melodic writing is not overly complicated, instead the piano takes on the role of commenting the words, rather than only accompanying the singer.

The text (sung in Spanish) is the following:

Ah, what of life! Does no one answer me?
Here are the yesteryears I lived:
My time takes Fortune’s bite,
The hours, my madness hides.
Alas, I know neither how nor where
My health have and years have fled.
Life fails, what has been lived attends.
And all calamities pursue me.
Yesterday was, Tomorrow has not come,
Today goes on without a pause,
And wearily I was, Will Be, and Am.
In today, tomorrow, yesterday, conjoined,
Diapers and shroud, I have remained
A dear succession to the grave.

Birds are in the air at ease,
Fish in the sea, the salamander in the flames
Man, in whose being all is contained,
Is on the earth alone.
And I, alone for torments born,
I am all elements:
My mouth with sighing rends the air,
My body on earth, a pilgrim, fares,
My eyes with sea fill day and night,
My heart and soul with fire.

Everything is swept away by the brief year
Of mortal life, mocking the verve
Of the brave steel, the cold marble
Taunting time with its hardness.

Before the foot yet learns to walk, it starts
Down the road of death, wither I am taking
My dismal life: poor muddy river
Swallowed up by the high waves of a black sea.

Every short moment is a long stride
Which I take, unwilling, along such a journey
Since always, asleep and unstirring, I spur ever on.

A little sigh, and a final, and a bitter one
Is death, ineluctable and innate;
But if it is law and not retribution, why then
Must I suffer?

List of Works


Sound art
Chamber music
Stage music
Chamber orchestra