Evensong was commissioned for the seventy-fifth anniversary of The Cleveland Orchestra and was completed at the end of August 1993, although I confess to some tinkering with it after that time. The piece is in three movements played without pause. Since the first two movements have both fast and slow music in them it may be somewhat difficulty for the listener to tell exactly where the movements begin and end.
Evensong is probably the most directly autobiographical work of my life although I believe that all music is to some extent autobiographical. The opening movement, Laus amicorum (?In Praise of Friends?) is dedicated to seven people who have made a major difference in my life: Sarah Woolley, my great-aunt, who started me in music; Louis Lane, who gave the initial impetus to my career and is a great friend; Marcel Dick, who taught me to compose; Ward Lewis, who inspired me; Hugh Glauser, a dedicated teacher who made me a musician; Max Pollikoff, who encouraged me and presented my music in New York eight years in a row, and Leonard Slatkin, who has played almost every orchestral work I have written and who has been my friend since 1970.
The second movement is titled ?Elegy for Marcel Dick.? The Webster definition of an elegy is ?a poem that laments the death of someone.? My elegy ends with a quote from a solo cello work by Marcel.
The last movement takes its title form the name of an old American folksong. ?Old Badman? is me. In the last 30 years, it seems that I have joined the mainstream of music, whatever that means. I still, however, like to think of myself as at least a little bit naughty.
Evensong opens with a quick five-note idea, played by the flutes. They immediately repeat the same idea in a much slower rhythm. This motif recurs in various guises throughout the entire work.
There are a few unusual sounds created by the orchestra but I think I would just as soon present these to you as surprises. All in all, I don?t think Evensong is a hard piece to follow, and I hope that many of you can find some meaning in it.