The Dove Descending

George Tsontakis

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Publisher: Merion Music, Inc.
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"The Dove Descending" (?Little Gidding,? the fourth of Eliot?s cycle)
Overall, this is the most gentle and consoling of these pieces, and ?the dark dove with the flickering tongue? is the strongest image reflected. And yet the appearance of Eliot?s dove is not a benign event, and issues forth some passionate words from the poet: ?The dove descending breaks the air / With the flame of incandescent terror? and ?Love is the unfamiliar Name / Behind the hands that wove / The intolerable shirt of flame.? The music of this part reflects a descent ? often, in musical terms, literally ? with downward string glissandi and quiet descending harmonic suspensions. In the mix are perhaps allusions to Eliot?s mysterious ?first-met stranger in the waning dusk? ? ?Whom I had known forgotten, half recalled? ? ?The eyes of a familiar compound ghost / Both intimate and unidentifiable,? as well as a seemingly conciliatory gesture toward death:
?We die with the dying: See, they depart, and we go with them.?
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From the time I completed the first of my "Four Symphonic Quartets", ?Perpetual Angelus? in February, 1992, until the completion of the last ?Other Echoes? in April, 1996, I had also fulfilled, intermittently, ten other commissioned works, not related to this cycle. This additional output includes two orchestral pieces as well as eight chamber works. Clearly, it was a creatively productive period of musical challenges, with an accent on deadline. One might expect that such lapses in continuity might serve to disrupt the concentrated effort on such a large work, eventually clouding the necessary unity, yet throughout the four-or-so year period the thread connecting the intent and creative integrity of these four pieces remained unsevered. On the contrary, attending to the ?non-Eliot? projects offered a welcomed respite from the major work-in-progress. It allowed time for the subconscious, conjured images to brew, re-brew and fructify, and then to transform ? somewhere deep ? in to a personal musical manifestation. Of course, it doesn?t hurt to have as a companion and stimulus, a literary masterpiece which suggests, for example, that the past, present and future might, at moments, exist simultaneously, in one deep, poetic breath.

Fortunately, opportunities to compose for this cycle arose at timely and mostly convenient intervals, vis

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Additional Information

Composition Date 1995
Duration 00:15:00
Orchestration 3(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) - 4 3 3 1; Timp. 3Perc. Pno. Hp. Str.
Premiere October 14th, 1995. Pasadena Symphony, conducted by Jorge Mester. Pasadena, California.

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