1(=picc)-1(=cor ang)-1(=bass cl)-1(=contrabsn) / 1-1-0-0 / 1 perc / hp / 4-4-2-2-2 (or 1-1-1-1-1)
First performance by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra conducted by Patrick Thomas, Arcadia Theatre, Sydney, 1 November 1985
Epilogue to an Opera (1982) for small orchestra
Between June 1981 and New Year’s Eve 1983 (during the course of which I moved from England to Australia) I composed my first opera, about the American writer Edgar Allan Poe. I managed a few other little pieces, but Poe occupied me pretty solidly. It was six times longer than anything else I had written, and the experience of writing it forced me to discover a whole series of techniques whereby I could propel the music (and the action) forward in the orchestra, but allow the words to be clearly heard.
During all of this I longed to write a purely orchestral piece in which such concerns no longer mattered, and I determined that it would be the first thing I did when the opera was complete. But I grew impatient, and this seven-minute ‘epilogue’ was actually composed more than 12 months before the opera was finished.
It works through a number of the musical techniques employed in Poe (there is only one actual quotation), including lots of motor rhythms and some very gestural music, and it discards them, one by one, ending in an essentially lyrical vein, which is the way that my music has tended to go ever since.
Epilogue to an Opera is dedicated to Poe’s librettist, Graham Devlin. It was first performed by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra conducted by Patrick Thomas in November 1985, on the same night as Poe had its first hearing in the Australian Opera’s inaugural National Opera Workshop. Although both performances took place in Sydney, they were unrelated and in different venues and, paradoxically, Epilogue was played two hours before the opera.