Sangre viva was commissioned by the Earl and Countess of Harewood, and was first performed at Harewood House on 28th November 2003 by Alison Balsom and Ian Farrington.
The title is taken from a lecture given by Federico Garcia Lorca in Buenos Aires and Havana in 1930, titled “Theory and function of the Duende”. Duende in Spanish means “goblin”; but in Andalucia it refers to the magic generated by an exceptional performer – musician, dancer, or bullfighter. In his essay, Lorca describes how an inspired performer can take even trivial music and raise it to a higher level. He cites Paganini, Eleonora Duse, and an anonymous nightclub singer. I would add Billie Holliday, Fats Waller, Piaf, and my particular heroine, Doris Day. Lorca used the phrase sangre viva (living blood) to describe the performer’s contribution. The language of contemporary music is sometimes so complex that it does not allow performers space to work this magic. Often (especially when rehearsal-time is short) they are too busy coping with technical difficulties to reach the heart and soul of a piece. My aim was to allow the performers enough space to make the piece their own. This is particularly so in the second movement, Sueno, which is utterly simple. Sueno (dream) is the title of a poem by Lorca about time, eternity and oblivion.
My heart rests by the cool fountain.
(Fill it with your threads,
spider of oblivion)
Giles Swayne 2008