Commentaries on Chamber and Orchestral Works

Terzian’s composing style displays a continuos evolution through 3 periods.

The first period, from 1954 to 1964, with many orchestral, chamber and
choral works (Violin Concerto, First Symphony, Three Pieces for string,
,Juegos para Diana ,Danza Criolla and Toccata for piano, Three Madrigals for choir, Lorca’s Soongsbook,
Contrasting Movements for Orchestra, etc.)

The second period is the cosmic stage, technically joined to the
postserialism, atonalism, and marked by the utilization of the microtone
which would be her constant characteristic up to the present. Images Book
for organ, Carmen Criaturalis for solo horn and orchestra,  Voces for mezzo,
chamber group and tape, Atmospheres for 2 pianos, Shantiniketan for solo flute and many works written
as theatre and ballet music.

The third period embraces space music with transformation of the sound in
real time as well as personal melodic microtonal criteria. Her proposal
includes the sound produced by instruments of the orchestra transforms by
means of electronic equipment and listened by the audience by means of many
loudspeakers that surrounds the concert hall as a sonorous dome. With this
system, the composer obtains a new original sound from the orchestra,
enriched and  moving into the space. Terzian applied this system in one of
her orchestral works: Canto a mí misma, performed with the BBC Welsh
Symphony Orchestra and the Symphonia Varsovia.

To this third period belong also other works like: Yagua-ya yuca for percussion,
Off the Edge for baritone and orchestra, Les yeux fertiles for mezzo and
chamber orchestra, Ofrenda a Bach for organ, Le viol des anges for 6
percussions, Au delá des rêves for trio, etc.


Was written in 1963 with different melodies and rhytms for children in poliphonic style. Dedicated to her daughter Diana.


Is the opus 1 and was written for Ginastera’s professorship who supported its edition seeing its quality. The work was influenced by the nationalist post-impresionism, which means with Argentine folk elements.

TOCCATA OPUS 4 (piano)

Is a work about the politonalism for Ginastera’s professorship and has a constant  and great rhytmic strength. Dedicated to Ginastera, her professor, and reccomended by him for its edition by Ricordi Americana. Many pianists have recorded this Toccata.

VOCES (mezzo, clarinet, violin, cello and tape)

Was written in 1978 and, later on in 1980 the flute was added.

This work uses the interrelation between concrete and electronic sounds generated and recorded in the tape, sang poems – some times cried out –  and  instruments in a context of great dramatism.
The composer uses shorts excerpts of poems by Garcia Lorca, Antonio Machado, Pablo Neruda, Walt Whitman, Samuel Beckett,  Bedros Turian and Hovhannes Tumanian in their original language, resulting a new and unique poem which expresses the only feeling of offering the VOICES she heard in her life and which inspired this work.

In addition, excerpts from their own works written in 1954, 1967, 1972 and jazz foxtrot are heard, which the composer recalls from her youth.

All the excerpts joined offered the different Voices that accompanied the composer through her childhood, youth, maturity, integrated as whole that give meaning to this original work. The tape has electroacustic sounds, dramatic overlapped voices in choral form.

VOCES was given the GREATNATIONAL MUSIC AWARD in 1982 and was premiered by the Grupo Encuentros at their 1st internacional tournee in 1979 in many European countries and submitted to the International Rostrum of Composers organized by the International Music Country in its seat Paris (UNESCO, Place de Fontenoy).

It is one one of her chamber works more frecuently performed in the world counting over 200 different performances.

ATMOSFERAS /(2 pianos)

Was written in 1969 commissioned by the Gulbenkian Foundation of Lisbon and premiered in the Great Auditorium of this Portuguese foundation in the European tournée of the Tila and John Montes .

The work is integrated by 14 different pieces that form a great unity. Musical ideas,  in contrast that do not forget the lyrism that set free the creative imagination of the composer resulting in a solid musical work.

ATMOSFERAS was awarded the National Fund for the Arts Prize in 1972 and integrates the “First Book of Cosmic Images”

BUENOS AIRES YOU ARE GOING TO KILL ME (piano,voice and tape)

 This work was commissioned in 1990, by the Aspekte Salzburg Festival, to compose a work which she called ‘Buenos Aires me vas a matar’ – Buenos Aires you are killing me- inspired on poems of César Fernández Moreno. It includes piano, recorded electroacoustic sounds and the poems chosen by the composer. It is an original focusing on elements of tango that are incorporated to the music and poetry of Buenos Aires.

It consists of 4 movements:

1st:entino hasta la muerte’ – Argentine to death- takes some national features united to tango connotations

 2nd: Un argentino en Europa’ – An Argentinian in Europe-refers specifically to the poet’s exile in Europe showing an itinerary of sadness and amazement

 3rd:Si yo tuviera un Corazon -If I only had a heart-tells about his returns to America and his arrival in Buenos Aires. Is based in the tango (Uno” written by Enrique Santos Discepolo.

 4th: Un argentine de vuela- An argentinian comes back- reveals the answer tp the title of the work which makes the plan ma,facing so many social,political and cultural contradictions in Argentina,feel the weariness of his soul.

 The tape is the central motif of the work which contain the text of the poem incorporated to it.

 The work could be presented as a “music theatre” including 2 recitants/actor in scene that listen the poems in the language of the country(there are translations in French,german,englis,Spanish and Italian) .

Both actors/recitants are seated like in a bar placed on the opposite side of the stage , , both with microphones and having speakers near to listen when the poems (in spanich) appears in the tape .

YAGUA YA YUCA (one percussionist )

Yagua Ya Yuca (Tiger that kills) was written for one percussionist and is dedicated to the Chiriguano and Chane peoples, part of a lost culture in Argentina. The work is dated in 1992 and was commissioned by Bernard Wulff for his percussion group of the Hochschule für Musik of Freibourg, Brisgau. It is the first of a series of 6 pieces for percussion called ‘The tiger’s roaring’, for 2 cymbals, a small gong, 2 piatti, 5 temple blocks, 2 bongoes, 4 tam tams, a drumm and chimes. The author says that she was inspired on a ceremony that takes place on the last Carnaval Sunday in the province of Chaco, where some descendants of the native people are still alive. The legend tells that the natives dance wearing masks: one is the bull (that represents the foreigner, the powerful) and the other is the tiger (yagua, the king of the territory). It is a combat following the god Fox (Aguatumpa) divinitiy of that people. Drumms and drunkness (macha) caused by those drumms, lead them to a paroxism. More than a singing is a struggle in which the tiger (the land) defeats the bull (the foreigner).

At the end of the work, the interpreter must shout and recite freely the text : ‘Bull that kills, tiger that kills, the sould runs and kill, look, look’…and having microphone with speakers. Once the ritual is finished they return to their shadows.

 LES YEUX FERTILES (mezzo,fl,cl,vl,vlc,piano and gong)

Was commisioned by Radio France in 1997 and premiered by Olivier Messiaen in the Auditorium of the same radio.

It belongs to a series of pieces of her third period, which starts with Canto a mí misma – Song for myself-  for orchestra (1982) where she resorts to the transformation of sound in real time thus creating a sonorous dome and circular sound,  being pioneer in the use hi-tech applied to music. The work uses different poems written by Paul Eluard from which Terzian builts a new poem which gives birth to the work. Written between Buenos Aires and Lausanne is formed of two parts for mezzo, piano, gong, flute and flute in G, clarinete, bass clarinete, violin and cello. The author says she follows the idea of exploration of microtonalism even only in the quarter tones. Terzian started this procedure in 1954 in her Three pieces for string quartett.

Les yeux fértiles is nourrished by microtones in all the instruments, glissandi, clusters, trills, slow and fasy vibratos. In the second part all the musicians play and sing like muttering (bouche fermée) the same melody but with a natural out of tuning. This is a method that the autor uses in her Song for myself.

Terzian explains that there is a thematic cell (G -A flat – B) that is the basis on which the whole work is built.

Concerning the text, it is a collage of different poems by Eluard, among them the one that gives the title to the work.


Written in 1954/55, was premiered at the Colón Opera House on November 17th,
1969 by the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Washington Castro. In
1970 the work was selected to have its premiere at the opening concert of
the IIIrd Music Festival of the Americas and Spain, at the Royal Theatre of
Madrid with the Symphony Orchestra of Spain conducted by Vicente Spiteri and
Szymsia Bajour as a soloist.

In 1972 it had its first performance in Erevan, Armenia, by the Philharmonia
Orchestra of Erevan conducted by Aram Katanian and Willy Mogatzian as a
soloist.During the last 7 years this work was performed in Rejkavik
(Iceland), Cagliari (Italy), Bremen (Germany), Zurich (Switzerland), Caracas
(Venezuela),  Bogotá (Colombia), Taiwan (China People Republic), etc, always
with Rafael Gintoli as a soloist and conducted, among many others, by Pedro
Ignacio Calderón, Francisco Rettig, Duilio Dobrin, Daniel Schweizer and
Keith Brown.

The Violin Concerto is structured in 3 movements. The first – Allegro – is
based on two contrasting themes: the first of rhythmical character, the
second more lyrical. Brilliant symphonism is characteristic of this movement
as well as the whole work and the great technical skill of the soloist. The
violin cadenza – of great virtuosism – alternates with the different themes
joined to microtonal elements (quarter of tone).

The second movement – Theme and Variations – is based on an ancient Armenian
folk song, compiled by the musicologist Father Dr. Gomidas. It is a
complaint: “Daughter your mother has died”. It is followed by 4 variations
that range from one of calm atmosphere to a moto perpetuo of great vivacity
and strength. At the end, the original theme returns to its delicate

The third movement – Andante – vibrant, is played by the brasses that open
the Allegro written as a rondó vivace of impulse and marked rhythms.
Previous to the end a virtuoso cadenza of the violin is built with thematic
remembrances and microtonal treatment. The presto final – melodic rhythmical
idea – is taken from the last movement of the 3 String Pieces written in

(Commentaries taken from the Colon Opera House programmes)


 Three Pieces for Strings

This work was written for string quartett as well as for string orchestra
in 1954 when I was in the first year of my studies of composition at the
National Conservatory of Music of Buenos Aires.
The version you have is for string orchestra.
It is divided into 3 movements and the inspiration is very near the
Armenian folkore. The first movement, Canción del atardecer – Sunset song –  is in
3 parts: a-b-a and coda. The two different themes are contrasting. The
second , Pastoral con variaciones – Pastoral with variations –  is a based on a
melody like the medieval ancient music played by the altos with different
variations. The last movement, Danza rústica – Rustic Dance –  is a very
rhythmical and lively rondó.
This work was played in many different concerts in Europe, with different
orchestras and string quarttets.

Contrasting movements

The world premiere of this wild symphonic conception that was awarded the
Municipal Prize of Composers of Argentina in 1964 – took place at the
Teatro Massimo of Palermo (Sicily, Italy) on April 8th, 1965 under Mtro. José
Rodriguez Faure’s conducting. The same year was the first performance at
the Colon Theatre of Buenos Aires with the National Symphony Orchestra. Three
years later this works was transformed into a ballet with choreography by
Lia Labarone and premiered on July 9th, 1968 at the Teatro Argentino of La
Plata, and two years later in the musical season of the Ballet
Contemporaneo of the Teatro Gral. San Martín in Buenos Aires.
The work is divided into 2 movements: Adagio elegíaco and Allegro
energico, and is dedicated to “Those who died for freedom”

The first movement – Adagio elegíaco – of bitter dramatism, starts very
insidiously with the cymbal redoubling and the first phrasing of cellos
and double basses. It is a very dramatic movement well orchestrated and in
some way, full of sadness. The Allegro energico opens with strength and
vivacity and full orchestra in a constant frantic rhythm. This theme alternates
with other cantabile fragments of contained expression. The work tetifies a
personality and an orchestral sense of great importance and plays with a
very free rhythm. The composer easily handles the orchestral palette.

The newspaper L’Ora of Palermo wrote, when it was premiered in Italy: “

 Movimientos Contrastantes by Alicia Terzian is an orchestral work of great

This work was conducted in Argentina and in the world by outstanding
orchestra conductors such as Mariano Drago, Wilhelm van Oterloo, Felix
Prohaska, Juan Pablo Izquierdo, Vaclav Smetacec, Francisco Rettig, etc.

Movimientos Contrastantes is in a CD edited by DOM Disques (Paris, France)
with the Symphony Orchestra of Zurich (Switzerland) under the conducting
of Daniel Schweizer.


This work belongs to the second period , “cosmic music” by Alicia Terzian,
written  commissioned by Friedrich Cerha (Austrian composer and conductor)
to be performed in 1971 with Philharmonic Orchestra of the Colón Theatre.
It is written for soloist horn, string orchestra, vibraphone and piatti.

Reviews points out the following commentaries:

“Alicia Terzian’s Carmen Criaturalis is intelligent music with some
flavour to wilderness and primitiveness. Sonorous climax of great strength
performed by the horn are placed in the middle of mysterious energies of the strings
with attractive dissonances and a contemporary language, but always
harmonic. Brief and shocking score, with lightings of a metaphysic
grandeur, exciting and imaginative” (18/6/79) César Magrini – El Cronista
Comercial – Buenos Aires

“The whole production of Alicia Terzian shows her desire to conciliate two
impulses: lyricism that reaches intense emotional climax and her willing
to be a genuine artist of her times. The first one takes her away from the
purely intelligent experience  and the fidelity to the present languaje
prevents her to imitate already well known formulas. Carmen Criaturalis is
nourished of such spiritual symbiosis that evokes contemporary painting,
which is lyrical and severe at the same time” (18/6/79) Napoleón Cabrera –
Clarín – Buenos Aires

Song for myself

Composed in 1986/87 commissioned by the Banco Mayo Foundation, was written
for  strings and electroacoustic system consisting of synthesizer,
digital dely, amplifier and transformation of instruments and voices sounds by
means of loudspeakers. Is the first time than is uses the transformation in real time of one full orchestra.

In the central part, the work includes the reading of poems by Pablo
Neruda, Jacques Prévert, Walt Whitman, Rodolfo Alonso, Rabindranath Tagore, Miguel Angel Slperoni, Paul Eluard and Samuel Beckett.

The music language of Canto a mí misma is made up of clusters of strings in
all the registers, accents and microtones used as very slow vibratos which
make the composition very original in both its structure and performance.

The transformation of sound in different parts of the work as well as the
movement of sound in space are an integral feature of the composition.

It was premiered in Buenos Aires by the Banco Mayo orchestra conducted by
Manuel Préstamo (1987 season).
The British premiere was in January 1992 by the BBC Welsh Symphony
orchestra. This works was slected by the International Jury of the ISCM
World Music Days Festival as an individual entry, in Poland in May 1992
performed by the Sinfonia Varsovia conducted by Reinbert de Leeuw. In
Aires was presented by the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Colon Theatre
under the conducting of Stewart Bedford in the 1992 concert season.

OFF THE EDGE (1992, bariton soloist, string orchestra,choir,gong)

Off the edge was commissioned by the Grenoble Orchestra (France) for its
20th anniversary and was premiered in a French official concert. The
conductor was Gudmundur Emilson and the bariton Sigurd Bragason.

This work was performed by the same orchestra in many tournées in different
cities of France and Germany.

Off the edge is inspired on  Walt Whitman’s “Song for myself”. The composer
takes fragments out of different poems of this work: Poems nrs. 21, 26, 42
and 50. With these fragments sang by the baritone and the choir as a
recitativo a new poem is born with the significance according to the
composer’s intention. The choir uses clusters and percussion with little
Chinese bells and the texts are like “sprechgesang”. The orchestra performs
vibrato lento with quarter of tones up and down and not well tuned sounds.
At the end, the baritone sings an ancient religious Armenian song of the
IVth century.

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