Niamh’s Tears

A performance of Domenico Scarlatti’s Sonata K213 by David Greilsammer


Niamh’s Tears is a depiction of the harmonic structure of Sonata K213, merged with the colors of a landscape with a sun setting on a horizon over a body of water. The Sonata starts so softly, you may not even hear the first few pitches of Greilsammer’s performance when it begins. Niamh is a character in the epic poem The Wanderings of Oisin. She is the child of a fairy king and a mortal woman and she lives in the undying lands. She rides on her magical horse – which is able to run over sea foam – to the human realm to tell King Oisin that she has heard of his name and reputation, and wants to be his wife. Upon seeing her, Oisin drops everything and comes to live with her. The text on this painting quotes the interchange between Oisin and Niamh when she first comes up to him and his companions, on her horse. She promises him a future filled with joy. Oisin and Niamh are together for a hundred years in her homeland, until Oisin sees a warrior’s broken spear in the tide and longs for his human home. Niamh eventually agrees to leave her home and they wander to two other islands before Oisin finally returns to the human realm. Upon leaving her homeland to wander the isles, Niamh cries continually as they travel. She is afraid of losing Oisin and understands the experience of human sorrow. The pace of the Sonata follows the path of her tears as water, continually cycling in rain, mist, foam and dew.