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Marco Polo: La Ruta de la Seda

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Luis Serrano Alarcón

Luis Serrano Alarcón


Subtitle: La Ruta de la Seda (The Silk Road)

This work is one of three suites in the composer's Marco Polo Trilogy.


General Info

Year: 2006
Duration: c. 24:00
Difficulty: VI (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Alarcon Music
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - Rental   |   Score Only (print) - €49.00


Movements

1. Génova, 1298 Genoa, 1298 – 4:10
2. La Caravana de los Mercaderes (The Caravan of the Merchants) – 7:00
3. El Viejo de la Montaña (The Old Man of the Mountain) – 3:15
4. Taklamakan (a desert in northwest China) – 6:10
5. Llegada a Cambaluc (Arrival in Cambaluc) – 4:00


Instrumentation

Full Score
C Piccolo (changes to Flute)
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III-IV
B-flat Bass Clarinet I-II
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone I-II
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III-IV
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
Bass Trombone
Euphonium I-II
Tuba I-II
String Bass
Piano
Timpani
Percussion I-VII, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Crotales (chromatic)
  • Darbukas I-II-III
  • Davul
  • Duduk
  • Tibetan Bowls
  • Hulusi
  • Glockenspiel I-II
  • Gongs (chromatic)
  • Iron pieces (optional)
  • Fireworks effect (optional)
  • Ride Cymbal
  • Riqq
  • Shvi
  • Snare Drum
  • Suspended Crash Cymbal
  • Tambourine
  • Tam-tam
  • Tar
  • Tom-toms (4)
  • Triangle
  • Vibraphone
  • War Drum I-II-III
  • Whip
  • Xylophone I-II
  • Zurna

Cello I-II


Errata

None discovered thus far.


Program Notes

This piece describes five episodes from the fantastic trip that the Venetian Marco Polo (1254-1324) realized to the court of Kublai Khan, emperor of the Mongolians, the biggest empire that ever existed on Earth. The composer found his inspiration, among others, in the book The Travels of Marco Polo, which the proper Marco Polo dictated to Rustichello, a romance writer, while both were in prison in Genoa in 1298. From the whole trip, which took 24 years, this piece describes only the first part, the travel from Venice to the court of Cambaluc (actually Beijng), which took four years to make.

1. Génova, 1298 represents the encounter between the two characters in the prison of Genoa. In the introduction, where the music starts cold and mysterious, the two main themes of the piece are presented. After this presentation, the music changes suddenly: Marco Polo finds Rustichello and feels better, knowing that he can tell his marvelous story to somebody, and thus forget the sorrow caused being a prisoner.

2. La Caravana de los Mercaderes describes the first part of the trip, more specifically that part corresponding to the Middle East (Turkey, Armenia, Iraq, etc.) To set the music for this part, the composer uses ethnic instruments of this area, such as a duduk, a tar or a zurna. The movement has two parts: the first is a Tamzara, a popular dance of Turkey and Armenia. In the second part, with the subtitle Contemplation of the Mount Ararat, the duduk plays an expressive melody which represents the encounter between the merchant and this mythical mount which, according to the tradition, is the location of Noah’s Ark.

3. El Viejo de la Montaña. One of the most incredible histories that Marco Polo tells in his book is about the Old Man from the Mountain. Although there are different opinions about this historical character, we can consider that the old man from the mountain is in fact Hassán Sabbah, who frightened and controlled the emirs and sultans of the Islamic East. from his fortress of Alamut (an impregnable fortress at the south of the Caspian Sea). One of the most surprising aspects of this sect are the capturing methods used by the Old Man of from the Mountain: he provided his adepts with hashish, leading them to an imaginary paradise on earth. Influenced by the effects of this drug, these citizens of Hassan were sent out to commit selected murders. Some people observe in the word “Hashâshin” (drinkers of Hashish) the etymological root for the word assassin. This group was very fearsome because of their effectiveness. Their power declined during the 13nd and 14nd century, because of the invasion of the Mongolians, who plundered every castle of the sect, and brought an end on their terrifying reign.

The movement is divided in two sections: one describes the majestic fortress of Alamut, and a second represents one of the murders by the members of this sect. Both sections are linked by a cadence of tibetan bowls, which evocate the moment of consuming drugs, creating an atmosphere that’s worrying and awesome at the same time.

4. Taklamakan offers music that becomes languid, representing the march of the merchants through Taklamakan, a desert of big dunes of sand located at the western part of China. Halfway through their trip through the desert, Marco Polo and his people observe the progressive approach of a Mongolian army (represented by the percussionist through a crescendo). After this martial passage the warriors gradually move away, and the merchants continue with their slow march.

5. Llegada a Cambaluc.. In the first part of this movement, subtitled Pescadores en el Huan He (Fishermen in the Huan He) the music describes a calm scene at the Huan He, the Yellow River, close to Beijng. During this part, the Hulusi (a type of Chinese flute) plays an expressive and fluid melody that represents the calmness of the Chinese fishermen while they are working. This calmness will change into exultation when Marco Polo and his people observe finally, after four years of marching, the city of Cambaluc on the skyline. Finally, Marco Polo enters triumphant and somewhat impressed into the broad and paved avenues of the city, because of big fire trees ["árboles de fuego"] in the sky, which cause big explosions and are welcoming him this way. These are of course fireworks, only one of the many marvelous things that the Venetian traveler discovered in the East.

The composer wanted to imagine the journey through the eyes of the people who experienced the trip, creating a work with deep contrasts and colorful sonorities, which he obtained specially by the use of the popular music of these regions that Marco Polo went through, and by using their ethnic instruments. After all, an authentic musical journey.

- Program Note translated and adapted from publisher


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