Commissioned by the Royal College of Music

For the Royal College of Music's Centenary Celebrations

  • 1(afl)1(ca)00/1000/
  • soprano
  • 19 min
  • J.M. Synge, prose trans. of Petrarch
  • English

Programme Note

My Dark Heart was commissioned by the Royal College of music as part of its centenary celebrations.

It is for soprano solo and six instruments (flute, oboe, horn, and string trio) and is a setting of words from J M Synge’s beautiful prose translation of Petrarch’s Sonnets: it is poetic prose with a recognisably Irish cadence.

They are tragic words, for Laura is dead and the poet mourns and longs to join her, - but there are moments of happy recollection too.

In this first sonnet he sees himself as a ship whose masts are broken, “and my steersman is tired out”.

In the second he describes the coming of Spring with the flowers and the grass and the birds: the mood is fresh and happy, “the air and the waters and the earth itself are full of love”.

The third sonnet, after an evocation of Summer, dreams of Laura’s beauties, “now turned to a little dust that knows nothing at all”, and the poet is in despair to be still living himself. Then his mood changes, “I am going after her-may she be there to meet me”, and the words end in serene anticipation.

Elizabeth Maconchy


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