The Healing Fountain, for piano trio (2002), 12′

Commissioned by The Schubert Club.

Program Note

When I was asked by The Schubert Club to write a work commemorating the events of September 11, 2001, I demurred, remembering Mme. Merle’s words in Portrait of a Lady: “There are times in life when even the music of Schubert has nothing to say to us.” There is an epigraph at the beginning of the piece, some lines by Auden which close his poem on the death of Yeats, lines which suggested to me a growth in feeling, a melting of sorrow. This is where I began:

In the deserts of the heart, let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days, teach the free man how to praise.

The work begins at the end, as the cello walks down its four last steps. Strings engage in a prolonged and muted duo. The piano enters and the three develop the material, which quickens and comes to a peak, then falls through sighing, descending fifths. The fountain which begins in the piano is of the “drop, drop slow tears” variety, and its waters pool in thickening harmonies. The final section is athematic: the music has been drained of content, and what remains arches and falls in aeternam.