Solens spejl' [Mirror of the Sun] pays tribute to a series of sensual poems written by Hans Christian Andersen during a journey to Spain in 1862.
'Solens spejl' is a collection of Art Songs that merges different cultural references, creating a fusion between Danish and Spanish cultures. The music in "Solens spejl" is a unique amalgamation of various genres and styles; compositions and arrangements blend elements of European late Romanticism and early Flamenco music with modern experimental compositions. The result is a sonic universe that bridges different eras, places, and artistic expressions.
LA AUSENCIA Y LA TEMPESTAD
The composite title translates to 'The Absence and the Storm'. Behind this somewhat mysterious title lie two pieces of music: "L'absence," composed by Pauline Viardot-García in 1850, and "La Tempestad," composed by Poul Udbye Pock-Steen in 2020.
Who was Pauline Viardot-García?
Pauline Viardot-Garcia was a talented soprano, pianist, and composer, the daughter of the renowned Spanish baritone Manuel García, who had settled in Paris in the early 19th century. Pauline Viardot-Garcia's connection to Hans Christian Andersen comes through the Swedish soprano Jenny Lind, known as 'The Swedish Nightingale.' Around 1831, Jenny Lind, facing serious vocal issues due to excessive touring, sought help from Pauline Viardot-García's elder brother, also named Manuel García after their father, who was an internationally recognized vocal pedagogue at that time. Jenny Lind would spent two years in Paris, and the paths of these two contemporaneous women crossed multiple times during their often rivalrous career trajectories.
L'absence, or in Spanish, La Ausencia. The piece was composed in 1850 and draws from an early Spanish Flamenco genre known as 'La Caña.' The lyrics are also traditional in style, reflecting the essence of Spanish culture, and have merely been translated into French. Viardot-García was acutely aware of her Spanish heritage and frequently incorporated elements of Spanish popular music into her compositions.
The Andersen connection
Hans Christian Andersen fell in love with Jenny Lind as early as 1843 when he heard her sing at the Royal Theater. Andersen's unrequited love for the Swedish soprano is widely known, and numerous books and articles have been written about it. Whether Andersen's acquaintance with Pauline Viardot-García stemmed from a connection through Jenny Lind is difficult to ascertain; all three were part of the cultural elite of their time. However, Andersen's diaries confirm that he visited Pauline Viardot-Garcia in Paris on his way back from his journey to Spain.
The instrumental piece 'La tempestad' is inspired by a storm surge that devastated Barcelona on September 15, 1862, just as Andersen was staying at the Hotel Oriente in the city. Poul Udbye Pock-Steen was captivated by the connection between Hans Christian Andersen's journey to Spain, Jenny Lind, and Pauline Viardot-García which motivated him to incorporate Viardot's composition 'L'absence' into the envisioned song cycle 'Solens spejl.' The piece appears in a recognizable, yet re-arranged version and is combined with Pock-Steen's own section, 'La tempestad.'
You can listen to 'La ausencia y la tempestad' in a live recording from Nyvangskirken, Kalundborg: