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tigres azules – blue tigers
for sixteen players


flute (piccolo/alto flute), oboe (cor anglais), 2 clarinets in A (2nd doubling bass clarinet), horn, vibraphone (glockenspiel I), marimba (glockenspiel II), harp, piano (celesta), harpsichord (celesta), ossia separate celesta player, 2 violins, viola, cello, double bass


17' 35"

Year of composition:


Commissioned by:

London Sinfonietta


London Sinfonietta/ conducted by  Oliver Knussen,

Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, 23 January 2004

Published by:

Recorded by:

Lontano, conducted by Odaline de la Martinez (fire dressed in black: Silvina Milstein Chamber Works, LORELT, LNT129)

tigres azules (blue tigers) borrows its title from a story by Borges, which sets up the equation blue = dream = the Orient = chaos = the unknown = anxiety, making it play against the equation the West = reason = routine = the world = the known = boredom.  A Western professor of logic at the University of Lahore makes a trip to a remote Hind­u village following reports of the sighting of blue tigers.  Instead, there he encounters ‘chaos’ in the form of a set of blue pebbles, which proliferate or reduce in number defying all reason.


The composition is in one continuous movement consisting of three parts, of which the second (and longest) itself incorporates a trio section in slower tempo.  The relation of the detail to the whole is inspired by the ornamental conception of the Dilwara temples in Rajasthan.  Figures carved out from translucent white marble totally cover their pillars, domes, arches, cloisters and ceilings, which divide into innumerable sections.  Female dancers, nymphs and musicians create endless variations of pattern and motif, replicating each other at different scales, giving the visitor the feeling of being immersed in a sensuous fractal.


tigres azules is scored for a continuo group consisting of harpsichord, piano, harp, celesta and tuned percussion, complemented by five wind and five string instruments in a texture reminiscent of a concerto grosso.




… a dense, busy music whose details meld to create macro-forms of huge sighing phrases that heave and subside like the lungs of some imaginary giant …


Stephen Pettitt, Evening Standard, 26 January 2004



Sequences were laid out like a string of jewels – their only goal, duly achieved, bedazzlement

and wonder …


Geoff Brown, The Times, 27 January 2004

 ... vivid and vibrant ... The blue tigers of the title again derive from Borges and India but one needs no special knowledge to appreciate its ineluctable rhythmic and expressive flow.

Guy Rickards, Tempo, 2009, Vol. 63, No. 250

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