• Soprano/pf
  • 8 min

Programme Note

When I first Came across Lagerkvist's book of poems 'Aftonland' some years ago, I immediately realised that he was a writer who spoke for me on all the important things of life. His closeness to the Northern landscape, and his passionate spiritual questing, neither accepting nor denying God, proclaimed him a kindred spirit; and I hoped that some day I would be able to set some of the poems to music. I was able to realise this long-cherished project when Norwich Music Club asked me to write a work for my wife Jane Manning, in celebration of their fiftieth anniversary in 1981. EVENING LAND is the result.

I chose nine poems to trace a spiritual journey, starting from the day a young boy gathering firewood for his mother looks up and sees the stars for the first tine. He finds his perception of existence irrevocably changed ('What did I experience that evening?'). This recitative-like narration is followed by two passionately developing songs, speaking of the agony of spiritual awareness ('Into me he breathed his spirit') and asking what mighty hand pierced him with the spirit-spear ('The spear has been cast forth'). A climax is reached with the hammered chords of an intense allegro. This may be considered the work's motto (' May my heart's disquiet never vanish. May I never be at peace… May my path be unending, with death its unknowable goal'). The climax subsides with a song of more resigned protest (' I wanted to know, but was only allowed to ask').

These five songs form one big arch, and the remainder of the cycle is shadowed by it. First, the poet continues his search in the world of nature ('I listen to the wind'), and finds consolation in a drowsy summer landscape ('Now it is summer morning'), although the distant cold stars momentarily disturb him. Gradually autumnal images take over, and an awareness of life's end ('Everything is so strangely removed today'), and the work ends in simple acceptance ('Some day you will be one of those who lived long ago'). Throughout this final Sequence the cycle's motto song is felt to be just below the harmonic surface, and it energes twice in more tangible recapitulations.