ON A DAY OF BELLS



Performed By: Marilyn Biery, organ

Instrumentation:
Solo organ

Duration: 8 minutes

Premiere:
October 22, 2002 by Marilyn Biery at the Our Lady of Grace Church, Edina, MN

Available From:
Oxford University Press, distributed by Goodmusic Publishing

Composer's Notes:
Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva’s lifetime spanned the years 1892-1941—a time in which she experienced the transition of her beloved country from a Czarist regime into Communist Russia. The daughter of a professor of Fine Arts at the Moscow University, she spent her early years living in intellectual and material privilege and became one of Russia’s leading young poets by the age of eighteen. Her circle of literary friends included Boris Pasternak, Maximilian Voloshin, Anna Akhmatova, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Osip Mandelstom. At the advent of the Russian Revolution Tsvetaeva’s life unraveled, plunging her into poverty and causing the death of her daughter Ariadna, from hunger. She lived in exile in Europe from 1922 until 1939 when she returned to Russia, impoverished and outcast, where she committed suicide in 1941. Throughout her life and work, her fierce love for Russia, its people, its passion, its cathedrals, and in particular the bells of the cathedrals surrounding Moscow Square, form the infinite dwelling place of her muse.
 
Tsvetaeva’s treasured bells can no longer be heard in Russia today; the Communist persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church included the removal and destruction of Russian bells, many of which were melted down into ammunition. On a Day of Bellsis a fantasy memorializing the peals of the bells of Moscow Square. I have loosely transcribed bell patterns from a field recording of Russian bells given to me by my friend William Everett, currently on the faculty of the Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, Missouri. The title of this composition is taken from poem # 7 of Verses About Moscow by Marina Tsvetaeva. 
 
— Libby Larsen