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The Dark Hours (2007)
Instrumentation: bassoon and piano
Commission: Carlos Surinach Fund of the BMI Foundation for Concert Artists Guild bassoonist Peter Kolkay and pianist Alexandra Nguyen
Premiere: Peter Kolkay (bassoon) and Alexandra Nguyen (piano)
Lawrence University Artist Series, Appleton, WI (April 2007)
Recording: Peter Kolkay (bassoon) and Alexandra Nguyen (piano), BassoonMusic (CAG Recordings 106)
excerpt from mvt. I
The Dark Hours takes its title and inspiration from an early poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, here translated from the German by Robert Bly:
I love the dark hours of my being
in which my senses drop into the deep.
I have found in them, as in old letters,
my private life, that is already lived through,
and become wide and powerful now, like legends.
Then I know that there is room in me
for a second huge and timeless life.
But sometimes I am like the tree that stands
over a grave, a leafy tree, fully grown,
who has lived out that particular dream, that the dead boy
(around whom its warm roots are pressing)
lost through his sad moods and his poems.
The first stanza anticipates Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, in which Rilke exhorts Franz Kappus to “go into yourself.” It is in the solitude of his own inner world – “the dark hours of my being” – that Rilke finds depth, freedom, and infinite possibilities. This stands in marked contrast to the second stanza, which suggests a different kind of darkness: the oppressive, claustrophobic feeling that the poet experiences in the outer world, what Rilke refers to elsewhere as “the great dark absence of the world.” Accordingly, the music of the opening movement is characterized by a restless, inward-directed longing, while a sense of constriction and unease pervades the second. In the final movement (played attacca after the second), musical ideas from the preceding movements are revisited in different guises. The poem’s encapsulation of Rilke’s sensibilities struck me as both an apt metaphor for the creative process, and a natural fit for the rich, dark sound world of the bassoon.
The Dark Hours was commissioned by the Carlos Surinach Fund of the BMI Foundation for Concert Artists Guild bassoonist Peter Kolkay and pianist Alexandra Nguyen.