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When I Too Long Have Looked Upon Your Face

    2•2•2•2  4•3•3•1 Timpani (5 drums), 2 Perc., Harp, Strings.  Percussion Requirements:  TamTam , Chimes, Suspended Cymbal (High), Wind Chimes (Brass), Bass Drum, Suspended Cymbal (Low), Triangle (High), Glockenspiel, Xylophone, Snare Drum (2)
    4 Tom-toms, Vibraphone

    Composed: 2022
    Duration: ca. 21 minutes

    Programme Note:

    I. A Brightness Unobscured
    II. Irresolute, A Mind Undone
    III. Accustomed to the Dark

    According to Greek mythology, the nymph Clytie was loved by the sun-god Helios. Soon enough, Helios became bored and pursued the love of Leucothea instead. Even as, Clytie was denied the love she sought, she continued to stare desperately at the sun for any change of heart. This angered Helios so much that he turned Clytie into a sun-gazing heliotrope, forever doomed to follow Helios across the sky. In her Sonnet VII, American poet Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) touches on these same themes with true skill:

    When I too long have looked upon your face,
    Wherein for me a brightness unobscured
    Save for the mists of brightness has its place,
    And terrible beauty not to be endured, I turn away reluctant from your light,
    And stand irresolute, a mind undone,
    A silly, dazzled thing deprived of sight
    From having looked too long upon the sun.
    Thus is my daily life a narrow room In which a little while, uncertainly,
    Surrounded by impenetrable gloom,
    Among familiar things grown strange to me
    Making my way, I pause, and feel, and hark,
    Till I become accustomed to the dark.

    It is from this sonnet that the triple concerto takes its title. In Clytie’s case, movement was imposed as a punishment. In the course of our lives, we probably find ourselves following things for a variety of reasons — love, concern, empathy. When the following ceases, we may have conflicting feelings. The triple concerto explores these themes through three movements. The first movement is sparkling, light, and dazzling; the second is doubting; the third is resolved and fierce.

    Premiere: First performance by Trio Sora with Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Mikko Franck conducting, Paris, February 18, 2022.

    Kelly-Marie Murphy, composer