• 4 cellos
  • 10 min

Programme Note

The Andes, that magnificent mountain range of Peru and Bolivia, is awesomely terrifying terrain. It is a wilderness of jagged, near-unclimbable peaks, foamwhite rivers fed by melted snow, and narrow valleys twisted and fissured by volcanic upheaval. The cold is so intense that steel shatters like glass, the wind has a touch of death, and almost the only living creatures are condors, soaring on unseen air currents over the slopes of ice-coated scree. Human beings, if they can survive the severe altitude sickness, are made to feel intruders. According to Quechua mythology, each of the mountain peaks of las montañas andinas is inhabited by a minor divinity known as the apu. Temperamental in nature, the apu is easily irritated by negligent villagers who trespass through the rugged naturaleza without offering up a prayer or leaving a simple gift of food. At certain times, mist (neblina) warns the careless travelers that the apu is about to unleash a huayco, or avalanche. Such huaycos wreak havoc, uprooting boulders and ancient trees, leaving a stench of sulfur in the zigzagging rips through woodland, field and pueblo. The groans (gruñidos) and grindings (machacas) of the deepest geological plates can be heard across the entire span of the "eternal hills" during such an onslaught.

In the aftermath, a stunning silence reigns.

(Adapted from Ian Cameron's Kingdom of the Sun God )

— Gabriela Lena Frank