For string ensemble or string orchestra and harpsichord
Fueguito fugaz was written at the request of José Serebrier for a project he was working on with the Concerto Málaga, a chamber orchestra in Málaga, Spain: a concert and recording of music in homage to Manuel de Falla. José requested a short piece using one or more themes by the great Spanish master. I chose one of my favorites among his melodies, “La canción del fuego fátuo,” one of the songs incorporated into his ballet, El amor brujo. Hard to translate into English, it is sometimes referred to as the “Song of the Will of the Wisp.” Miles Davis and Gil Evans collaborated on an arrangement under that title on their famous Sketches of Spain album and I’m sure other composers have worked with this short melody, so beautiful in its simplicity. The song describes the vagaries of love: fleeing when you are most ardent, pursuing you when you are indifferent, comparing love to the capricious Will of the Wisp.
I strove for something perhaps a little amusing (hence the subtitle, “capricho”), but still respectful of the original material. Much of the piece presents the melody in rather long notes, usually in the low register, against varying kinds of swirling backgrounds. There is also a brief developmental passage in which motives are extracted from the melody and tossed around the orchestra. Only at the very end is the tune presented in something like de Falla’s original, and even then in fragments.
The title is a bit of a play on words in Spanish. “Fueguito” means “little fire,” and “fugaz” is another word, like “fátuo,” for “fleeting,” so it is essentially a reworking of the original title.