Río de Llantos

Op. 40  |  flute, violin, viola, cello, and piano  |  1998

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Río de Llantos - Ian Krouse
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Río de llantos (River of Laments) began as a work for flute and guitar in 1993, under the title ‘Sonata-Fantasia On a Traditional Spanish Song’. In 1998, I recast the piece for the present ensemble, in which guise it was premiered at UCLA by Sheridon Stokes, flute, Mark Kaplan, violin, Evan Wilson, viola, Barry Gold, cello, and Walter Ponce, piano. Following its first performance, I made a few cuts and revisions, and, in the run up to tonight’s performance (and recording), a few more. The work’s sister (Sonata-Fantasia On A Spanish Song), a re-casting of the original version of the work for two guitars and flute receives its premiere performances and recording in Georgia this fall.


The work comes squarely from my ‘Spanish’ period, and is steeped in flamenco, Spanish folkloric idioms, cante jondo, Lorca, and, of course, the guitar. In this respect, the work has much in common with my earlier works Tientos (1991) for flute and string trio, and Bulerías (1989) for guitar quartet. The entire piece is based upon Lorca’s catchy setting of the traditional folk-song ‘Los cuatro muleros.’ The work is not a traditional ‘variations’ structure in the old manner, but rather an extended fantasia on elements taken from the melody, its rhythm, and even the simple, but effective accompaniment that Lorca provided. Truly every essential idea in this work is derived from the deceptively simple melody, which, though accompanied in an incessant 3/8, is really often in 3/4, providing a springboard of rhythmic permutations that I had great fun with. From time to time the melody bubbles to the surface in a recognizable manner but often in dark transformations – sometimes inverted! It is true, after all, that the true meaning of these songs is often ambiguous and illusive; the seemingly cheery surface of much Spanish popular music distracts from a deeper, darker meaning. In the present song, for example, where a young woman confesses her inner passions to her mother, it is not entirely clear which of the four handsome young mule drivers is the true object of the young wife’s affections…

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Text and Translation:

De los cuatro muleros, 

mamita mía,

que van al campo,

el de la mula torda, 

mamita mía, 

moreno y alto.

De los cuatro muleros, 

mamita mía, 

que van al agua, 

el de la mula torda,

mamita mía,

me roba el alma. 

De los cuatro muleros, 

mamita mía, 

que van al río, 

el de la mula torda, 

mamita mía,

es mi marío. 

¿ A qué buscas la lumbre, 

mamita mía,

la calle arriba 

si de tu cara sale

mamita mía, 

la brasa viva? 

Of the four muleteers,

dear mommy,

that go to the field,

the one with the grey mule,

dear mommy,

is dark and tall.

Of the four muleteers,

dear mommy,

that go to the water,

the one with the grey mule,

dear mommy,

has stolen my soul.

Of the four muleteers,

dear mommy,

that go to the river,

the one with the grey mule,

dear mommy,

is my husband.

 

What are you looking for

dear mommy,

in the streets above

if your face glows

dear mommy,

with live embers?

Copyright © 2019 by Crystal A. Frost