Polo – meaning, lyrics and musical analysis

Last updated Aug 31, 2020 | Published on Jan 19, 2016

Winner of a fellowship at the Bayreuther Festspiele, Mr. Griglio’s conducting has been praised for his “energy” and “fine details”. Mr. Griglio took part in the first world recording of music by composer Irwin Bazelon and conducted several world premieres like "The song of Eddie", by Harold Farberman, a candidate for the Pulitzer Prize. Principal Conductor of International Opera Theater Philadelphia for four years, Mr.Griglio is also active as a composer. His first opera, Camille Claudel, debuted in 2013 to a great success of audience and critics. Mr. Griglio is presently working on an opera on Caravaggio and Music Director of Opera Odyssey.


Last song of the cycle, Polo has its roots in Andalusia: its brisk and lively accompaniment in repeated notes are a direct reminder of the zapateado, a Spanish dance rich in Flamenco rhythms and foot stomping.

A passionate song, the continuous repetition of rhythmic patterns in the piano part unifies the entire piece while the melody plays on the word ‘Ay’. This word is, in fact, a harsh cry which mixed with the gipsy melismas of the singing line and the guitar-like accompaniment, makes ‘Polo’ quite unique right from the start.

The structure is A-A1-Coda. The piano short four-bars introduction introduces a rhythmic element that permeates the entire piece

Polo ex.1
Right at the entrance of the singer, the first cell of this element is repeated in a way that breaks the natural stress of the ⅜, while the voice cries out the previously mentioned ‘Ay’
Polo ex.2
Besides creating a clear sense of anxiety, this is also a reminiscence of the golpe guitar technique, a finger tap typical of flamenco.
The piano retakes the lead, reaffirming the rhythmic idea for a few bars and then the accompaniment is quickened by the use of triplets.

The melody, unlike the other songs, is not repeated, but changed from one section to another, though it is, naturally, built around the same material. Its length is also irregular, keeping away from patterns, both inside the phrase and between the sections.

De Falla works by reduction of the material: the first 6 bars are shortened to 4, then 3 and 2; then 1 bar mirroring the next one in retrograde and then the conclusion of the phrase which stretches the 32nd into 16th and lands on the E

Polo ex.3
In the second section the melody is worked out differently: the first 4 bars are repeated with the same structure, changing pitch and (slightly) the rhythm; the next 2 bars are repeated one step higher and then a melisma brings us back to the F (like in the first section) and finally to the E. The melisma in triplet serves as coda, one octave higher.
Polo ex.4
The melody, the melismas at the end of each phrase or semi-phrase, the final melisma in the coda, they are all wrenching expressions of a broken heart that cannot find liberation except through screaming its head off.

Here’s the link to Conchita Supervia’s interpretation.


Guardo una, iAy!
iGuardo una pena en mi pecho
Que a nadie se la diré!
Malhaya el amor malhaya, iAy!
iY quien me lu dió a entender!

I have a…, Ah!
I have a pain in my heart
That I will not tell anyone!
Love be damned, be damned Ah!
And who taught me to understand it!

Here you can find all the articles related to the Siete canciones populares españolas:


Cover image by Lucas Craig from Pexels

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Gianmaria Griglio is an intelligent, exceptional musician. There is no question about his conducting abilities: he has exceptionally clear baton technique that allows him to articulate whatever decisions he has made about the music.

Harold Farberman

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