COMPOSER 1945–2013

Opus 86

Besos sin cuento (1989)

for Alto, Flute, Viola, and Harp

Texts by Renaissance Spanish poets

  • La Belle Inés (Baltasar del Alcázar)
  • Y Dulce Olvido (Francisco de la Terre)
  • Al Amor (Cristóbal de Castillejo)
  • En Jaén (Anónimo)
  • Duermes, Licisca (Francisco de Medrano)
  • Glosa de las Vacas (Cristóbal de Castillejo)

Duration: 18 min.

Recording: Albany TROY553

Premiere: 1998; S. Goodman and Ens.; New York, NY

Contact us regarding perusal or performance materials.

My Spanish songs, Besos sin cuento, resulted from two motivations, and it should be admitted from the outset that I have absolutely no knowledge of the Spanish language other than certain culinary terminology. For some time, I was drawn to the remarkable songs in the Sephardic tradition more than 500 years old, in the Judeo-Spanish language Ladino. Performances and recordings of this literature are abundant and my motivation was to find some poetry of this heritage that had not yet been musically set. My search, however, revealed that most of the secular texts had indeed survived specifically because there were musical settings; all that seemed to remain were religious meditations, and for once I wanted to write a piece with no references either to religion, or mortality, for that matter. I decided to split my motivation towards two different works. I planned (and ultimately wrote) A Sephardic Rhapsody for orchestra, and proceeded to research Renaissance Spanish poetry, the result of which is Besos sin cuento.

I chose the “broken consort” but very sensuous combination of low female voice, flute, viola, and harp. The six movement design attempts a certain symmetry; the medium-fast outer movements are the more complex and set somewhat humorous amorous texts. No. 1 is in 5/8 meter and no. 6 is something of a rondo, where the “A” occurs on different tonics each time; movements 2 and 5 are the more pensive slow movements, no. 2 has a coda in 11/8 meter; no. 5 uses a drone; the middle movements are the true scherzi; no. 3 is a duet for voice and flute; no. 4 adds the tambourine. (Notes by Arnold Rosner)