SPELL ON ME THAT HOLY HOUR, A: OVERTURE TO TSVETAEVA


Instrumentation:
Full orchestra: piccolo, 2 flutes (3rd doubles alto flute), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 Bb trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, harp, celeste, 2 percussion: [1 - orchestra bells, vibraphone, triangle (medium), bass drum, suspended cymbal], [2 - tubular bells, bell tree, crotales, tam-tam (large), suspended cymbal, temple blocks], timpani, strings

Duration: 8 minutes 30 seconds

Premiere:
June 18, 1997 by the American Russian Youth Orchestra, Leon Botstein, conductor, at Carnegie Hall, New York City, NY

Available From:
Oxford University Press

Composer's Notes:
Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva (1892-1941) lived a fatefully tragic life, which began happily enough. Her father was a professor of fine arts at Moscow University and her mother was a concert pianist who died of tuberculosis when Tsvetaeva was fourteen years old. She married Serge Efron, who served in the Revolution of 1919 as an officer for the White Army. He left her alone in Moscow for five years, an outcast with two daughters, Alya and Irina. Famine engulfed Moscow, forcing her to put her daughters in an orphanage. Irina died there, of hunger, in 1919. From 1922 until 1925, Marina Tsvetaeva lived in Prague and then Paris until 1939. During this time, she had many torrid love affairs. When World War II broke out, she was evacuated to the town of Yelabuge on the Kama River, where in August of 1941 she committed suicide. Volumes of her work were published in the Soviet Union in 1961 an 1965. Her friends included Boris Pasternak, Madelstam, Anna Akhmatova and Rainer Maria Rilke, with whom she had a passionate correspondance during the summer of 1925.

Marina Tsvetaeva's poetry is full of images of bells, mountains and the naming of the hours. Like Virginia Woolf in Mrs. Dalloway, Tsvetaeva recalls the sound of bells as they hang in the air, tolling the past and future in each stroke.

By chance, a friend of mine sent me two cassette tapes he had made of pealing church bells in Moscow on Easter morning. I constructed A Spell on Me that Holy Hour: Overture to Tsvetaeva around these bell patterns embedding the major themes of the opera in the texture.

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