Pablo Neruda: The Poet Sings

Works by Ratcliff, Kirchner and Grantham

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LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Pablo Neruda: The Poet Sings
WORKS: Works by Ratcliff, Kirchner and Grantham
PERFORMER: Conspirare; Conspirare Chamber Players/Craig Hella Johnson
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 807637 (hybrid CD/SACD)


Which work for choir mentions scissors, thimbles, salt shakers and a pair of pliers? The answer is Cary Ratcliff’s Ode to Common Things, the first movement of which sets Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s apostrophisation of everyday objects. There’s a kind of musical onomatopoeia at work here, as the clack and hiss of consonants in the text is complemented by a burbling piano and busy percussion section.

The teeming variousness of Neruda’s litany is fluidly communicated in Conspirare’s alert performance. Elsewhere in the cycle the vibrant contributions of soprano Lauren Snouffer are particularly impressive, as is the sense of pregnant reverie distilled by conductor Craig Hella Johnson in the central ‘Ode to the guitar’.


The three other works on the program also use poetry by Neruda. Shawn Kirchner’s two sonnet settings are sweet lyrical interludes between Ratcliff’s ambitious 47-minute opus, and Donald Grantham’s intense rendering of La canción desesperada, where the solo violin of Stephen Redfield adds a now sad, now agitated commentary to Neruda’s meditation on love lost but not forgotten. Soprano Lauren Snouffer’s soaring interjections, as the solo baritone’s estranged lover, are again specially notable. Terry Blain