As its subtitle suggests "Song of Love and Death" , Harawi takes as its subject "a love that is fatal, irresistible, and which, as a rule, leads to death. The twelve texts that comprise Harawi, all written by the composer himself, are in a highly surrealistic French that defies accurate translation; this again presages Cinq Rechants, in which similarly surreal images in intelligible French are juxtaposed with purely phonetic nonsense syllables. The symbols utilized in the text are highly evocative, and the musical setting matches nuance for nuance. She transforms in the second poem into a green dove, a Mayan symbol for love. This imagery will return later in the eighth song, "Syllables," in which a variety of musical hues and textures accompany the vivid descriptions of the lover as a colorful bird and heavenly flower.
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Using the musical structures Messiaen had created for Harawi, he built massive phrases in these songs, expanding space and time, creating extreme tenderness, vastness, clarity and abysses. In Harawi both lovers are not only human, but beings, which transform again and again. Destruction, pain, death, creation, joy, dance and love are not final — they are all everchanging particles of our interwoven cosmic existence.
From the first notes of La ville qui dormait to the dying piano sound in Dans le noir, this is a performance that will absolutely rivet you. Sun achieves this miracle as much, if not more, by the sheer quality of her voice, though she interprets very well. The same comparison holds regarding Sun vs. Arnold or anyone else, for that matter. She does a remarkable job with the lyrics in many of them. Where Sun seduces and cajoles the listener, Perifanova provides an offsetting joyous energy. They complement each other in a way that only the best singer-accompanist duos can.
With drier or tighter-miked sound, some of the magic would disappear. Not necessarily. Know how to use your space, and the space will benefit your voice. This clearly goes straight to the top of performances of this unusual and somewhat difficult song cycle. A must-have for those who enjoy this cycle.
Harawi, song cycle for soprano & piano, I/28
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