• Anthony Payne
  • The Spirit's Harvest (1985)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the BBC

For European Music Year

  • 3(pic).2+ca.2(bcl)+Ebcl.2/4331/timp.2perc/hp/str
  • 25 min

Programme Note

The idea for this work, the expressive structure and the emotional world it was to inhabit, occurred to me many years ago when I was still a student. But it was some fifteen years before I had the technique and security of language to start putting it correctly down on paper. That was in 1973 by which time the work had already gone through three tranformations, the language different in each case, the structure remaining the same; and each time I had returned to it I had found myself incapable of pushing on beyond the second section, such were the problems posed by its large-scale form. By 1973, however, after completing PHOENIX MASS which had enabled me to form a personal language and gain experience in handling elaborate musical architecture, I felt able to take up the work anew, and at last began to get I right; although, ironically, I soon had to abandon it onve more in order to fulfil the increasing number of commissions I was receiving. This led to a further complication, as must have happened to many a composer who has become involved in a long cherished project, for the music which occupied my mind over the next few years developed through and feeling in directions which seemed at variance with the older work, and only more recently did I feel that the wheel had turned full circle and that I might again enter its world with conviction. The time was now right to complete it, which meant writing about twenty minutes music, and at this moment by a stroke of fortune the BBC offered their commission.

The plan which had occupied my minf for all those years was that a single large-scale movement based on three types of material, nature music, dance music (of a sort), and nocturnal music. An opening section would expose these three groups of material, without hinting at the dramatic significance they would achieve as the work unfolded. Each group would then be developed into a section of its own, achieving a narrative thread which would reach a descend into the depths. All this does indeed occr in the work as it now stands, but at a very late stage I began to envisage a different end, whereby through an effort of will and of the spirit the music would wing its way out of the abyss and fly, if not heavenwards, at least into a new area of feeling - the victory, perhaps, of the defeated.

It remains to say that the 'pastoral music' consists of a long wind melody supported by rich harmonies with piccolo and glokenspiel decorations (though its subsequent development will be contrapuntal rather than simply melodic and harmonic); the 'dance music' is again on wind with bell-like brass notes (later this proves to have been merely the subsidiary subject, thus contradicting our expectations); and the 'nocturnal music' consists of distant horn and trumpet calls over a 'magic' chord with a few upward running figures (in its development, the pastoral melody is pressed into service, now purely melodic and harmonic, while the running figures have become vastly slow speeding up into dense scales only as the crisis arrives).

Anthony Payne, June 1985