Image: Excerpt from "Los Visitantes de la Noche" by Fernando de Szyszlo. Image used by permission.

Cello Suite: Los Visitantes de la Noche,

after paintings by Fernando de Szyszlo


Total duration ca. 10'30" 

Five-movement work

I. Primer Visitante (Slow)

II. Segundo Visitante (Fast)

III. Tercer Visitante (Medium Fast)

IV. Cuarto Visitante (Very Fast)

V. Abolición de la Muerto (Medium Slow)

Premiered in March 2014

in Nashville, TN by Justin Goldsmith

Watch a performance of this work on YouTube



Performed by Justin Goldsmith


Purchase this score and part from

Peter Dayton Music (ASCAP) for: $15.00

The Cello Suite is the third of, at the moment, four works that I have composed responding to the paintings of the Polish/Peruvian painter Fernando de Szyszlo (the others: Recinto for Double Bass and Mar de Lurín for Oboe and Guitar, and Sol Negro for 2 Guitars). Hermetically symbolic, sensuous, primordial, Fernando de Szyszlo’s work often takes the forms of series of paintings on a single subject. There is also plenty of cross-over in de Szyszlo’s paintings: a three-legged (sacrificial?) table that appears in a Mar de Lurín is a key visual leitmotif in the Recinto series, and the inhuman, totemic figures in many of the Mar de Lurin paintings appear in several Recinto paintings as well as La Habitación No. 23 series.

Similarly, Los Visitantes de la Noche takes its inspiration from a collection of paintings; the figures appear singularly in paintings entitled Visitante, several of them appear together in Abolicion de la Muerte, and they each are present in Los Visitantes de la Noche. The four visitor figures, framed by light emanating from crude-hewn doors (a feature shared with the Recinto paintings), shape the form of the work and the character of the first four movements. Szyszlo’s painting raises questions about these characters. Have they just entered? Are we in this room as well, trapped? After portraits of these four Vistitantes, the fifth movement is their retreat, Abolición de la Muerte, the banishment of death. Here, in these separate paintings, the angle has shifted and de Szyszlo shows the visitors now with a wan light cast upon them (harmonics), perhaps showing them as only painted stone, perhaps calling them back. The paintings do not seem interested in answering our questions; they evoke a world, primal and dream-like. The loose narrative that my suite constructs is my own attempt to interpret de Szyszlo’s dream world. Equally, however, it is my attempt to create a work that evokes similar moods of disquiet and mystery, as a tribute in my own medium of choice to one of my favorite painters.

I am grateful to Justin Goldsmith, who first requested the piece and to whom it is dedicated, for his wonderful premiere on March 18, 2014 at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music in Nashville, TN, along with projections of the paintings with permission of Fernando de Szyszlo at a concert themed around music paired with visual art and poetry.