Musical Shadings and Unusual Textures

Osvaldo Golijov

Oceana (Deutsche Grammophon, 2007)

Similar to his 2005 Deutsche Grammophon recording, Ayre, Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov teams up with opera soprano Dawn Upshaw on the CD, Oceana. The Kronos Quartet, Brazilian chanteuse Luciana Souza, the Atlanta Symphony Chorus, and other luminaries embellish this emotional tableau. On this recording, Golijov garners his inspiration from Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, American poet, Emily Dickinson, and the Nazi Holocaust in its brutal relationship to Jews and gypsies (Night of the Flying Horses). Golijov seamlessly blends the warmth of South American culture, with strands of Yiddish music and American poetry while creating astoundingly new work.

Oceana actually features three different performances, Oceana, based on a Pablo Neruda poem and originally performed at the Oregon Bach Festival, Tenebrae originally commissioned for the Spoleta Festival, and Three Songs for soprano and orchestra commissioned by the Minnesota Orchestra.


Oceana features the jazz vocals of Luciana Souza backed by a lush choir and orchestra. Tenenbrae features the Kronos Quartet, and the Three songs for soprano allows the illustrious Dawn Upshaw to take the lead. Golijov proves once again that he’s an innovative and top-rate American composer with an ear for musical shadings and unusual textures (listen to the bass clarinet backed by strings on Night of the Flying Horses). His intuition leads him to the right musical partnerships and on top of that he coaxes superb performances out of the musicians, ranging from a boys’ choir to classical music divas.

Dawn Upshaw who is no stranger to cutting edge classical music projects, brings emotional and technical precision to three different pieces that she performs on this disc. When she sings the Yiddish song, Night of the Flying Horses: Close Your Eyes, it’s as if she has been transported into the body of a holocaust victim. It would not be out of the question to shed a few tears along with the vocalist.

Lua descolorida and Emily Dickinson’s How Slow the Wind feel lighter and even more whimsical in comparison. The more I hear Dawn Upshaw’s vocal work, the more impressed I become–more inspired and in awe of the vocalist’s range. If this recording marks the first time that listeners have witnessed her work, no doubt they will become overnight fans. And if Oceana marks the first time listeners have witnessed Osvaldo Golijov’s creative genius, they might feel proud to hail from the Americas where plenty of classical composing talent reside.

Compliments of Cranky Crow Whole Music

And The Whole Music Experience blog

Buy Oceana.

Author: PatriciaHerlevi

Patricia Herlevi is a former music journalist turned music researcher. She is especially interested in raising music consciousness. She is looking for an agent and publisher for her book Whole Music (Soul Food for the Mind Body Spirit). She founded and hosts the blog
The Whole Music Experience and has contributed to World Music Central since 2003.