William Neil:

This work has not been commercially recorded, and the information on this page regarding the piece is courtesy of Mr. Neil.

Límites (1978) 16:22
Mezzo-soprano & chamber orchestra
Text on the poem by Jorge Luis Borges

Recorded Performance:
Cleveland Institute of Music Chamber Orchestra
Jean Strazdes, mezzo-soprano

A setting of the poem "Límites" from El otro, el mismo (The Self and the Other). An expanded version of the "Límites" found in El hacedor (where it was "attributed" to one Julio Platero Haedo), the poem is a melancholy meditation on a world that will soon be lost, one element at a time. (The shorter, original version contains the powerful final line: "Le muerta me desgasta, incesante," or "Death is using me up, relentlessly.")
Neil's reading of the poem is informed by Borges' "acceptance of impending blindness," and as such seems saturated by a dark, mysterious quality that evokes some final twilight. Límites is a powerful and haunting work, introduced by a sudden swell that rises over muted and distant percussion, breaks into a stuttering fanfare and then falls back, scattering across the strings in a scurry of pizzicato. This sets the mood for most of the piece, which unfolds slowly, duskily, occasionally sparked by bursts of sudden percussion or exploding into a whirlwind of instrumentation. The singing floats more or less consistently above the music, sad and slightly urgent. The middle section of the poem ("Hay en el Sur") is spoken rather than sung, the Spanish articulated forcefully until bursting back into song. Urgency gives way to sadness and resignation, the mezzo spinning out a lyrical thread over sustained strings and a steady rhythm. A period of quiet is followed by a menacing gathering of forces on the lowest register of the piano, and as the poem picks up again, the orchestration grows increasingly more agitated, straining for some sort of resolution. Things calm down again for the last two stanzas, as the final lines of the poem are delivered with a cosmic sadness over a slowly resolving melody.
Límites is a somber but wonderful piece, slowing down the reading pace of Borges' celebrated poem and bringing out the complex emotions that lie within: the sadness, the anger, the tenderness and the resignation of a man who realizes he is not immortal, and will one day perish, as "the roses have died, and Aristotle."

Notes from William Neil

William Neil:
Borges' poem greatly impressed me with its dream like images and its rich reflections on the limitations that we face in our lives. The poem mirrors Borges own acceptance of his impending blindness. I sought to capture musically the vivid revelations found in each of the stanzas of the poem. The music centers around the note A 440 which tries dramatically to rise to B-flat but is unsuccessful until the very end of the work, underscoring the lines "space, time, and Borges now are leaving me." ("Espacio y tiempo y Borges ya me dejan.")

Contact Information

William Neil may be contacted at the following email address: wneil@thecomposerstudio.com.

His homepage, The Composer's Studio, also contains information on Límites, including an audio excerpt.


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