This composition was a commission for the Spanish National Orchestra and Choir, to be premiered by the “Catalan Chamber Orchestra” within the XV Chamber Music and Choral Cycle of INAEM. The work premiered in Madrid on 10 November 1992 at the Sala de Cambra of the Auditori Nacional.
The circumstances around the creation of the work have partly conditioned the genesis of “Polifonía de cámara para 15 instrumentos de cuerda“, but Llanas has tried to avoid any touch of conventionalism. The original layout of the orchestra, as a starting point, creates the author’s own dynamic. The composer plays with the spatial distribution and the proposed arrangement can potentially remind us of, even if distantly, the baroque polychoral and concerto grosso. In this work, the instruments are organized into three groups of five members each of them clearly differentiated. Two groups are led by instruments that assume the lead role, avoiding any of the traditional virtuosity. Interestingly, these two instruments are the viola and the bass, each of which is associated with a string quartet that has, in turn, its own voice. On another level lies the group of five violins, which assist in creating a sort of sound background.
The concept of polyphony has a broad meaning in this piece, since it involves melodic, rhythmical and spatial elements. The author locates this elaborate piece in the section of speculative works in its catalog next to other such as, for example, “Spazio-Tempo” (1990) or “Necesidad y Azar” (1989). The composer himself acknowledges a clear duality in his creative work throughout this period covering the last fifteen years of the 20th century. He juxtaposes the works he describes as “speculative” with others he calls “mestizo” in which he seek new results from the reaction that occurs with the mixture of different elements, such as in “Concerto para guitarra y cuerdas” (1988). However, in Polyphony… Llanas’ taste for contrast and divergence can be appreciated as well.
This work consists of four movements that could be considered a copy of the classical symphony. The first movement, Introduzione-Duo, serves to introduce the instruments, which are incorporated gradually on a background of violins. This introduction, in tempo tranquillo, has a harmonious nature that leads to a dialectic (the duet) between the two main instruments, the viola and bass. The Hoquetus, which occupies the second place, was composed first and is the most elaborate one. Hoquetus, which Franco of Cologne defined in the 13th century as “truncatio vocis” is a process, perhaps a musical form from medieval polyphony that is characterized by rhythmic richness and mobility generated by the abundant use of silences that intersect the melodic line giving a bouncy character. Llanas indicates in the score that Hoquetus has to be interpreted camminando ma nervoso. To emphasize the expressive effect sought, he uses constant changes of rhythm and sound material with quarter tones, in order to create highly accurate sound colors. After an accelerated race between the two quartets, the movement ends with an ambiance of mysterious tranquility.
The third movement is called Lux Aeterna and has to be interpreted lento con anima. It has a polyphonic choral Renaissance nature, built on sound blocks that consist of long melodic lines that create an somewhat morbid atmosphere. The timbral color desired is made clear in this movement with the permanent use of the damper on all instruments. The piece ends with the Contrapunto doppio, organized on the juxtaposition of two contrasting ideas. The first is clearly melodic and somewhat romantic and is presented alternately by the two cellos. The second idea, which appears simultaneously, is a “ligetian” gesture played legatissimo alla corda by the violins, which generates a vibrant texture. These two ideas are contrasted in time synchronously and diachronically, in a dialectical counterpoint game. “
(excerpt from the premiere’s program notes signed by Victor Pliego).
Listen to the end of the first movement Introduzione-Duo: