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Boosey & Hawkes

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Composer's Notes

I    prologue
II   scherzo malincolico
III  andante
IV scherzo giocoso; 1st trio; 2nd trio; scherzo-reprise
V epilogue

Though the title Evening with Angels is borrowed form a poem by Wallace Stevens the basic inspiration for this ‘textless song-cycle’ comes from Tennyson, to the extent that the three central movements are closely based on fragments or complete lyrics by him. The scherzo malincolico takes the agitated "All along the valley" and an autumnal quatrain from The Lady of Shalott as its starting point; it is balanced by the scherzo giocoso and its two trios, where the inspiration came from a delightful pair of poems from his juvenilia, that contrast decay and dissolution with perpetual renewal. The use of a poetic original is at its closest in the central andante, which follows "Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white" line by line and word by word.

These complementary scherzos of autumn and spring are in turn flanked by a prologue, tentatively setting out the work’s basic materials and sonorities, and an epilogue which gathers them all into an unbroken arc of texture and melody, which at its climax is broken off to lead to an elegiac end. Thus the outermost movements are a hommage both to the blithe airiness of Stevens and the dark melancholy of Tennyson. In the first version of Evening with Angels (a BBC commission written in spring 1972) there was a further song movement, and all of them were separated by recurring musical frame. In 1983 the work was revised, the frames drastically curtailed or dropped altogether, as well as the one picture that now no longer fitted.

Robin Holloway

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