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tamb/slapstick/metal plate/xyl/gslsp-harp-pft(=cel)-strings

Abbreviations (PDF)


Boosey & Hawkes

This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.


World Premiere
Avery Fisher Hall, New York, New York
Thomas Stacy / New York Philharmonic / Kurt Masur
Composer's Notes
  1. Preamble and Amble
  2. Love Letter
  3. Recurring Dream
  4. Perpetual Motion
  5. Medley and Prayer

At first I planned to call it Meditations in an Emergency, after Frank O'Hara's poem, since half the piece was composed literally in a hospital bed. Indeed, the winter of 1991-92 was one of physical stress; when I worked at all it was through a hazy protestant need to meet deadlines. Later I opted for a straightforward title (saving the ornamental names for the separate movements), for I do not believe that music, especially non-vocal music, necessarily reflects its maker's mood in medias res, or what people can agree—as they can with poetry and pictures—that a specific piece is angry or happy or noble, much less that it represents an ocean or an operating room. When a gloomy composer labors on a lengthy project he checks the gloom at his studio door, along with his aches and pains, and functions in a kind of limbo. (A definition of the Artist: One who exists outside himself, and has something to show for it. He is the least egotistical of citizens).

My sole aim in writing the concerto for English Horn was to exploit that instrument's special luster and pliability. The literature is slim, maybe because the English Horn—or, as the English say, the cor anglais—cannot hold its own against an orchestra as singularly as a piano or trumpet or cello or flute. To make the sound gleam like an opaline reed through a wash of brass and silver, catgut steel, I used an orchestra by Philharmonic standards is hardly huge, with a pair of oboes like nephews often flanking, sometimes goading, their wistful relative.

Each of the five movements is to some degree a passacaglia, a neutral or redundant background, a canvas upon which the soloist will limn his pictures. For what its worth, this is my first work ever to have been composed entirely away from a keyboard, and directly onto orchestration parchment. This transpired between December 6, 1991 and June 13, 1992, in New York City in Nantucket. The instrumentation is as follows: 2 Flutes (2nd inter. Picc.), 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets in B-flat, 2 Bassoons, 2 Horns in F, 2 Trumpets in C, Timpani (4 drums) and this percussion: Snare drum, Tenor Drum, Bass Drum, 3 Bongos, Triangle, large Cymbal, Castanets, Tambourine, slapstick, metal Plate, Xylophone, Glockenspiel, Harp, Piano (inter. Celesta in second movement), Strings.

Ned Rorem

Reproduction Rights
This programme note can be reproduced free of charge in concert programmes with a credit to the composer


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