This work was composed to be the last music ever heard at the Huntington Estate Music Festival, which reached its thirtieth and final iteration in November 2019. It would be performed by all of the musicians at the festival, and needed to be a celebration of a magnificent musical history. But as I started work it became clear that it would also need to express regret at the loss of this magical event, while not dwelling in sorrow. I fastened on Shelley’s plaintive and evocative poem, Music, When Soft Voices Die, as a way to evoke senses of memory and loss from a perspective of love and beauty.
The poem is given a simple setting at the start of the work, and a softer, more reflective setting at the very end. Between those two stanchions I had two minutes to reflect 30 years of musical enjoyment - the glories, the experiments, the surprises and the gum trees. Think of it as fleeting musical wisps half remembered from a dream as a kaleidoscopic sequence of unexpected fragments.
A Farewell to Music was commissioned for Musica Viva Australia by The Hon Jane Mathews AO. The first performance was given by the Huntington Festival Musicians at the Huntington Estate Music Festival in November 2019.
Music, When Soft Voices Die - Percy Bysshe Shelley
Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory;
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.
Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heaped for the beloved's bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.