PARALLEL REALMS is the eighth Cervetti Navona Records album and features spellbinding 21st-century works for orchestra that are shaped by a meticulous understanding of craft, a sharp and playful wit, and with a sincerity and wisdom for music which is metaphysical and spiritual. Three single-movement symphonic works are counterparts of scrupulous musicianship that unlock the treasure chest of childhood memory, invoke a sacred rite, and imagine mapping the corporeal.


Et in Arcadia ego is a symphonic poem dedicated to the island Martín García, a nature preserve off the coast of Uruguay. Nicolas Poussin’s painting in the Louvre, The Shepherds of Arcadia, depicts a paysage eerily reminiscent of what Cervetti felt he saw as a boy when visiting the island. It bears an inscription, Et in Arcadia ego, generally interpreted to be a meditation on mortality. In this paradisiacal land death is ever present even as it renews the flora and fauna. The idée fixe of shifting pitches B and Bb which are almost constant and lend a pseudo-impression of tonality, the minimalistic imitation of avian cacophony, and a criollo tune near the end are masterfully orchestrated to summon a canvas of sound and a remembrance of childhood euphoria now lost; along with the island that was once Uruguay’s but is now under Argentina’s jurisdiction.


Consolamentum is titled after the sacrament of the medieval Christian Cathars during confirmation in the faith and upon impending death so as to unite the believer with the Holy Spirit and elevate to a blessed plane. The work is a musical offering for the Cathars, Albigensians, and Waldensians who suffered persecution under the Inquisition. It is constructed around two chords, the equivalence of the tonic-dominant relationship, that are peppered with dissonances and running scales which culminate in a quasi-tonal, unresolved ending. The work elicits a belief in regeneration and mankind’s potential for elevation to a spiritual plane derived from, but not dependent upon, a religious rite.


Plexus, a semi-graphic score commissioned in 1970 and revised in 2016, refers to a branching network of vessels, nerves, or systems that becomes evident with an accumulating counterpoint of similar lines which expand into fractal, dissonant textures. The original score included popular radio and TV slogans from the 1970’s spoken by orchestra members. It is revised by a plexus-in-reverse where textures progressively thin out to finish pianissimo.

— KPR, October 2018



Et in Arcadia ego, 2017

Nothing adequately describes the emotions I felt as a young boy on a precarious raft, navigated by my father and uncle, as we approached the island Martín García, a nature preserve three miles off the coast of Uruguay. At an impressionable age of 7, to encounter wild sounds, colorful species of birds, and profuse foliage was like salvation in paradise once safely ashore. Visiting the Louvre years later I was struck by Nicolas Poussin’s painting The Shepherds of Arcadia. It depicted an otherworldly vista that aroused feelings astonishingly similar to those I experienced on that island that memorable day long ago.


Consolamentum, 2016

Although I was raised in the Waldensian faith, I have always admired the Cathars and Albigensians who also sprang up in Southern France in the 12th Century. All suffered persecution under the Inquisition which culminated in the siege and burning of Montségur in 1244 in Languedoc. My composition pays homage to those martyrs and is titled after one of their sacred rites of passage.


Plexus, 1970 revised 2016

The premiere of the original version occurred on May 18, 1971, in Washington, D.C., performed by the National Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Antonio Tauriello. The piece was commissioned by the Pan American Union/Organization of American States for the Fifth Inter-American Music Festival.


I had the good fortune to train with Ernst Krenek in the intricacies of total serialism. After graduating from Peabody Conservatory, however, I never felt the inclination to follow that path. Sound exploration and aleatoric techniques attracted me. After a year’s residency in Berlin sponsored by the DAAD and settling afterward in New York City, the minimalist movement got my full-blown attention. I was obviously torn between aesthetics and in a transitional phase with that ambivalence evident in Plexus, an experiment in a collage of sound textures. Alan Kriegsman wrote a laudatory review in The Washington Post when the original work was premiered in 1971. It was worthwhile revisiting this early work from a mature perspective.



It is informative to quote music journalists for insight into what they hear Cervetti write. The Washington Post’s Pulitzer Prize winning critic Alan Kriegsman reviewed Plexus at the time of its premiere by the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Antonio Tauriello for the Fifth Inter-American Music Festival. Newsweek Magazine also covered the festival’s programs.


“The potential for positive achievement was wonderfully illustrated by the evening’s great find, Plexus, by Sergio Cervetti, a 30-year old Uruguayan composer who resided for some years in Washington and gave ample proof of his promise then (he now lives in New York City).


Plexus gives further evidence of Cervetti’s unusually discerning ear, his strong sense of both fantasy and order, and his thorough knowledge of what instruments can and cannot do. He has enough command over the orchestral medium to beat electronic synthesizers at their own game, inventing an awesome range of sonorities that are truly novel and genuinely intriguing.


In Plexus, Cervetti manipulates such masses along clearly projected dynamic curves. Taut, nervous murmurings evolve into wall-shattering alarums, and the whole is gathered into a mosaic that is never less than fascinating. The sound spectrum, incidentally, includes speech. To the instruments of the Festival Orchestra, under the alert direction of Antonio Tauriello, Cervetti added vocal interjections from the players themselves.”

—The Washington Post, Alan Kriegsman, 5/20/1971


“In the final premiere, 29-year-old Uruguayan Sergio Cervetti’s Plexus, the musicians murmured and hissed, breaking at the end into quotations of such slogans as ‘Pan Am Makes the Going Great’ and ‘Geritol for Iron-Poor Blood.’  Some of the composers might indeed have preferred computers.  One such was Uruguay’s Cervetti, whose work had been commissioned for orchestra by the OAS.  ‘All composers know the difficulty of writing for unwilling musicians’ he said, adding that he believes the training of musicians will have to be changed to meet the demands of new music.”

—Newsweek Magazine, 5/31/1971



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