• Composer: Eric Tuan 
  • Publisher: E.C Schirmer
  • Cat No: 7856
  • Canadian Work: No

Conductor Notes:

I chose for our first consideration of personal challenge the devastating loss of a lover. The writer is standing under a dark blue sky filled with stars which used to be a source of shared joy. Now the immense night, filled with stars, is “more immense without her” and our protagonist is engulfed in grief. San Francisco-based Tuan’s marriage of music to Neruda’s painfully desolate poem is exquisitely crafted.

Nocturne was written for Robert Geary and the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir.

Composer / Arranger Notes:

I first fell in love with the poetry of Pablo Neruda during secondary school. It seemed as if the Chilean poet could conjure an entire interior landscape of longing and loss with only the bare minimum of words; every line was worth savoring on the tongue over and over again. The text for Nocturne is drawn from Neruda’s collection Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada (“Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair”), a set of twenty reflections on love written when the poet was only nineteen. I chose to set the final “song of despair” when I was the same age, reflecting on that first bloom of young love which seems so all-consuming as a teenager. In Nocturne, I tried to mirror the vividness of Neruda’s imagery by giving each line of poetry its own distinctive musical setting. While it may lack a certain formal clarity as a result, I hope it captures the scattered whirlwind of emotions that come with the end of a relationship.


This lists any discs, concerts or collections where this piece is included.



Poem by Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)
“Poem XX” from Viente poemas de amor y una cancion desesperada Only lines 1-17 are used in Nocturne
English translation copyright Alice Del Simone

Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche.
Escribir, por ejemplo: ” La noche está estrellada,
y tiritan, azules, los astros, a lo lejos”.
El viento de la noche gira en el cielo y canta.

Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche.
Yo la quise, y a veces ella también me quiso.
En las noches como ésta la tuve entre mis brazos.
La besé tantas veces bajo el cielo infinito.
Ella me quiso, a veces yo también la quería.
Cómo no haber amado sus grandes ojos fijos.

Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche.
Pensar que no la tengo. Sentir que la he perdido.
Oír la noche inmensa, más inmensa sin ella.
Y el verso cae al alma como pasto el rocío.
Qué importa que mi amor no pudiera guardarla.
La noche está estrellada y ella no está conmigo.
Eso es todo. A lo lejos alguien canta.
A lo lejos.

English translation

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
Write, for example, “The night is starry
and the blue stars shiver in the distance.”
The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and at times she loved me as well.
Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.
She loved me, at times I loved her as well.
How could one not have loved her great, still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.
To hear the immense night, more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul as dew to the pasture.
What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is filled with stars and she is not with me.
This is all. In the distance someone is singing.
In the distance.