About Dove of Peace – Homage to Picasso

Dove of Peace. Homage to Picasso. Chamber Concert Nr. 1 for Clarinet solo and Ensemble

-Carles Riera in memoriam-

“Una inmensa paloma blanca salpica con la cólera de su duelo la tierra”

Pablo Picasso (Paris, 31 de marzo 1952)

I have known composer Benet Casablancas since 1990. I have performed with pleasure several of his works, premiered and recorded some of them. As we are playing in this monographic programme this week, Barcelona’s Auditori, Sampler Series) I thought it would be interesting to publish these notes about the piece I will be performing, together with the ensemble bcn216 and conductor Francesc Prat. I’m thrilled with the idea that this piece is dedicated to the memory of my friend Carles Riera, who was such an excellent clarinetist, pedagog and communicator, and also to work again with bcn216, veteran ensemble that I had the chance to conduct back in 2008 and 2010.

“Dove of Peace. Homage to Picasso” was written by Benet Casablancas (Sabadell, Barcelona, 1956-) from September 2009 to February 2010, responding to the commission received from The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra of a concerto piece for clarinet and chamber orchestra, for RLPO’s soloist Nicholas Cox and Ensemble 10/10, conducted by Clark Rundell. This commission, which Casablancas greeted with enthusiasm, was made at the request of Cox himself who, as a result of having listened to the radio live broadcast of the UK Prémière of “Seven Scenes from Hamlet” from the Barbican Hall, performed by the BBC SO and Ray Fearon, conducted by Josep Pons, had the idea of asking the composer for a new piece to be premiered in Liverpool. The coincidence of the premiere with the dates of a great Picasso exhibition in the Tate Liverpool leaded the author to conceive his work as homage to the admired Spanish artist and to the most politically committed dimension of his legacy, of which the dove of peace is perhaps the most universal symbol. Social conflicts, the gloomiest boundaries of human condition, war and peace, are dealt with by Picasso -as Goya had done previously and also Miró does- with uncommon eloquence and fearlessness, in contrast with the “joie de vivre” and the most playful aspect which enlightens his extraordinary and vital creative personality. Picasso himself alludes to this in a beautiful text:

“the fire of streetlamps´s oil that lights in Madrid´s night in may´s afternoon the noble faces of the people shooted by the strange bird of prey in Goya´s painting is the same horrific seed planted full hands of spotlights in the open chest of Greece by governments that exude terror and hate. One immense white dove splashes with the rage of its mourning the ground”

Pablo Picasso, Poemas en prosa (Barcelona: Plataforma Editorial, pág. 167: 2008)

Expressive chiaroscuros and marked contrasts of tempi and character are plentiful in this piece, always maintaining – as usual in the composer – an eminently abstract nature, free from any programmatic intention. The soloist part appeals to the marvellous versatility of the clarinet, whose timbre conditions that of the instrumentation, always preserving – as pointed out by the subtitle and despite the virtuous demands and the sound wideness of certain passages- a genuinely chamberlike dimension. The work is structured as a whole in five sections which develop without break in continuity: 1. Introduction (Tranquillo e lontano – Con moto súb. – Calmando); 2. Con moto; 3. Lento; 4. Allegro; 5. Epilogue (Calmo assai. Estatico – Ampio e luminoso – Poco più mosso). The idyllic pastoral atmosphere of the beginning will soon be dashed by the dark accents of the bass clarinet and the aggressive bursts in the orchestra, with an oblique reference to the disasters of the war. Then it will evolve progressively towards the more lively and brighter central sections of the work, in which the dramatic quality of certain passages counterbalances the scherzando vivacity and the cantabile lyricism of others, whose unfolding will culminate in a powerful climax, sustained by wide and sonorous chords by all the orchestra. What follows is the Epilogue, with a rarefied and ecstatic atmosphere, in the mood of a “landscape after the battle”, which will slowly liven up: Life, despite everything, continues, in the same way that will remain the Utopian dream. It is then when the oboe will introduce echoes of a children song (“in the mood of a children folksong”), which the clarinet will take up again immediately and whose elaboration will lead the piece towards its vibrating conclusion, as a catharsis, animated by the soft swinging of C and D perfect major triads in a suspended atmosphere which will slowly fade away to silence.

In this piece, which Casablancas dedicates to the excellent soloist Nicholas Cox, “with esteem and admiration”, the author follows again one of his passions, which has become constant all through his output, which is the dialogue with other artistic languages, such as poetry and literature and especially painting, whose results are recognisable in “Alter Klang”, Impromptu for orchestra after Klee (2006) o “Four Darks in Red”, after Rothko, recently premiered in New York (Composer Portrait at Miller Theatre, 2010). Shakespeare´s work inspire also the “Seven Scenes from Hamlet” (1989), one of the author´s most widely performed works, and “The Dark Backward of Time” (after “The Tempest”, 2005), that was performed in tour for Spain under the RLPO chief conductor, maestro Vasily Petrenko. The present piece is the authors´s first incursion in the concertante genre.