high voice (tenor) and piano quintet
Score and parts for hire
One Foot in Eden was commissioned by Convivium Music of Lincoln. When this piece was commissioned, Viv McVeagh, the Adminstrator of Convivium Music, suggested that I might consider setting a poem by Edwin Muir called 'The Difficult Land'. After a lot of thought, I decided that I could not set this particular poem, but I found Muir - whom I knew something about but had never read - to be a most sympathetic writer, and I chose three other poems by him: one of his best known, 'One Foot in Eden'; an early poem, 'Autumn in Prague'; and one of his last, 'Sunset', to form a short cycle. Edwin Muir (1887-1959) was born and spent his childhood in Orkney. He lived in Prague after the First World War and he and his wife Willa were the first translators of Kafka into English. Margaret Drabble has noted two recurrent themes in his poetry: "the dream journey though time and place" and "the myth of an Eden threatened by various forms of catastrophe or expulsion". I have not used the piano quintet throughout the piece: after an initial string pizzicato, the first song, 'One Foot in Eden', has just a piano accompaniment; the string quartet enters again at the end of the song, and an interlude for piano quintet leads to the second song, 'Autumn in Prague', written for the full forces. The quintet continues with a second interlude, a passacaglia, which brings the subdued emotions of the previous song to the forefront. The last song, 'Sunset', is accompanied by string quartet. At its conclusion the piano re-enters for a meditative postlude on some of the material of the first song, in particular the lines "Strange blessings never in Paradise/ Fall from these beclouded skies", which could stand as a motto for the piece.
© David Matthews