Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs

About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,

The night above the dingle starry, /  Time let me hail and climb

Golden in the heydays of his eyes      ( Dylan Thomas, Fern Hill)

Dear friends,

It’s easy to understand why so many poets have written lyrical meditations about the passage of time. The poignancy of this fundamental human condition is lost on no one, and no season makes us feel its bittersweetness quite as viscerally as the fall. Although I admit to feeling more than a normal amount of excitement at the first crunchy leaf underfoot, it is always accompanied by nostalgia and wistfulness about the past.

Time, and its beginnings and endings, were the inspiration for today’s program. Once I learned that there existed a string quintet version of Haydn’s Creation, I knew I had to pair it with Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time. Then came the serendipitous discovery that Sebastien Currier had written a string quartet movement entitled, Time Flow, tying this program together. I offer no connection to Dvořák’s Piano Quintet, one of the most beloved works in the chamber music repertoire, except to say that it is timeless.

Though at first glance it may seem odd to play a chamber arrangement of large scale work for orchestra, chorus and soloists, today’s version of Haydn’s Creation (Die Schopfüng), was made in Haydn’s time precisely because such chamber arrangements served a need. In a time when few had the chance of attending symphonic concerts, they enabled music lovers to hear and play ravishing music in intimate ensembles in their own living rooms. Even without the text, it stands on its own as a masterpiece of lyricism.

Here’s something to ponder as you listen to the haunting Louange movement from Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, which he composed in a prisoner of war camp after being captured by the German army in 1940. (Please glance at the program notes on p. 13.) Considering what the prisoners endured in those hopeless camps—hunger, cold, not to mention torture—why would they bother with art or music? And yet—from this and other camps—we have poetry, music, and art. It seems that the obvious conclusion is that even in a place where people have to focus on survival, art must be, somehow, essential. This never ceases to amaze me.  

Here’s to one of the essentials of life: Music.