scriptvideohe POETRY AND HARP - 5 Chamber Works by Fabio Grasso





POETRY AND HARP - Five Chamber Works by Fabio Grasso


The works included in this programme have been composed by Fabio Grasso for the seasons of Agimus Venezia, and performed by the members of the ensembles created around this Association, like Plurimo Ensemble and InContinuum Ensemble, among which the Venetian harpist Alessandra Trentin and, for the third piece, one of her young promising students. Each piece draws its inspiration from a poetic source, according to the literary themes chosen as references by the concert series.


1. Tháleia - Variations on a garden

Homage to Emily Dickinson. Flute, Harp, Piano. 2011


2. Barcarolle du ręve vespéral

Homage to Stéphane Mallarmé. Harp with Piano ad libitum. 2016


3. Wie Zephirstöne

Homage to Friedrich Hölderlin. Clarinet and Harp. 2017


4. Recondita Aulodia

Homage to Bruno Maderna. Flute, Harp, Piano, 2010


5. ...hear thee once...

Homage to George Gordon Byron. Flute, Harp. 2013




1. Tháleia - for flute, harp, piano - 2011

Tháleia (Greek word for "flowering") consists of 9 short pieces. Each of them is titled with a name of a flower or a tree of Emily Dickinson's garden, an extremely important source of inspiration for the American poet.

The work is conceived as a walk through a garden, with fixed and free routes: the succession of the pieces is partially preordained by the composer, partially determinable by the performers.

The structures of the pieces are somehow related to the features of the flowers. The descriptive and psychological context of their evocations in Dickinson's poems can sometimes affect the compositional  writing. Otherwise, the physical form of a flower can be transformed into a musical architetcure: for example, the symmetric layout of the Rose and the semantic allusion to the gravitation suggested by the term Aster inspire a piece (n. 5) built on a note that acts as centre of symmetry, while all other sounds circulate around it, at specular distances.

Finally, the chordal sequences of the last piece, dedicated to the Lotus, conceal some fragments drawn from the Heine-Lieder by Schumann and Mendelssohn that mention the "Lotosblume".

Performance: Dec-03-2011, Venezia, Sale Apollinee del Teatro La Fenice

Cecilia Vendrasco, flute; Alessandra Trentin, harp; Fabio Grasso, piano




2. Barcarolle du ręve vespéral - for harp with piano ad libitum - 2016

In S. Mallarmé's Sonnet en yx, that inspires this piece, the expressiveness of the symbolist images is often strictly connected with the pure sound of the words. The heart of the conceptual framework of the sonnet, the "sonorous inanity" of the "Néant" - that is the Nothingness already explored by Baudelaire - finds a powerful representation in a non-existent word, "Ptyx", mere phonetic abstraction, ghostlike symbpl of negation and absence.

A ghostly presence, that of the piano, characterizes this work, which can be considered as a solo harp piece with optional piano accompaniment.

The 2 parts of the macrostructure (A || B) are in their turn divided into 2 subsections (A1 A2 || B1 B2).

The possible interventions of the piano appear in the sections A2 and B2, as oneiric counterpoints from the distance to the harp line, or emanations from its most tensive passages, like during the caesura between A2 and B1.

Whether these piano figures are really performed or only evoked by the signs of the score in the mind of the harpist, they innervate the harp resonances with a sort of meta-physical sound, as in the sonnet fire, gold and stars seem to reflect the extreme gleams upon a non-reality, sinking into emptiness and oblivion.

Performance: Nov-19-2016, Venezia, Sale Apollinee del Teatro La Fenice

Alessandra Trentin, harp; Fabio Grasso, piano

Concert Details




3. Wie Zephirstöne - for clarinet and harp - 2017

The title ("Like Zephyrus's sounds") is a fragment of a verse from Diotima, probably the most famous poem written by Friedrich Hölderlin, in which he recollects the appearance of the woman, concealed under the ancient Greek name, who impressed a so deep trace in his life, representing a source of new light and a spring breath of hope.

One can imagine that in this pieces the instruments play the two ideal roles emerging from the verses: the poet's voice (assigned to the clarinet) and the spirit of Diotima (evoked by the harp).

The structure is conceived according to a free interpretative route of the poem, and can be described in the following way:

first invocation (clarinet) - first answer (harp) - phases of interaction (convergent and divergent)

second short and resigned invocation (clarinet) - final far answer (harp), like from a superior, sublimed, perennial entity.

Performance: Oct-28-2017, Venezia, Teatrino di Palazzo Grassi

Enrico Palatini (born 2000), clarinet: Caterina Artuso (born 2001), harp

Concert details




4. Recondita aulodia - for flute, harp, and piano - 2010

This is the only work of this programme not directly connected with a specific poem.

However, the term "aulodia", so important in the production of Bruno Maderna, the great Venetian composer to whom this piece does homage, refers to the ancient Greek poetry supposedly associated with the wind instrument called aulos (something similar to a flute and/or to an oboe).

The main intent of the piece is to recreate "aulodic" phrases, giving them to "non-aulodic" instruments, the polyphonic harp and piano: so they weave a dialogue of reminiscences with duty arranged monodic lines. Only in the last section the voice of the flute, till here only evoked, can materialize in the final cadenza that acts as guide for the other instruments. Yet even here - as happens in the Barcarolle for the piano - this presence is optional: if the flute is absent, nevertheless its line will be followed by the pianist and the harpist, as a reference not heard but only thought.

Performance: Nov-19-2010, Venezia, Aula Magna dell'Ateneo Veneto

Alessandra Trentin, harp; Alessandro Segreto, piano; Fulvio Fiorio, flute





5. ...hear thee once... - for flute and harp - 2013

"Hear thee once" is one of the last invocations that in Byron's Manfred the protagonist of the drama addresses to Astarte, mysterious female character appearing like a ghost: she announces Manfred's imminent death, as release from his sufferings, answering to his imploration of forgiveness.

Like in Wie Zephirstöne, the wind instrument (here a flute) and the harp embody the dialectic relation between an invoking man (in this case Manfred as clear image of the poet himself) and the spirit of a woman, raised to an higher, almost transcendent and anyway unreachable dimension.

Tha phrasing of the piece is often based on ternary schemes, aiming to mirror the features of this crucial passage of the drama, in which Byron shows a certain predilection for the three-limbed periods.

The concert of the first performance was enriched by the reading of new poems freely inspired by the figure of Astarte, written by the Italian poet Monica Pavani. In this video the musical performance is preceded by some verses recited by the author herself; the structure of this excerpt influenced in some way the general formal route of the piece.

Performance: Nov-12-2013, Venezia, Sale Apollinee del Teatro La Fenice

Cecilia Vendrasco, flute; Alessandra Trentin, harp

Concert details