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Psyche : symphonic poem, based upon a sketch by Richard Wagner, for orchestra, 1999, rev. 2001 / John Borstlap

Publisher: Amsterdam: Donemus, 2002
Publisher's number: 10194
Genre: Orchestra
Subgenre: Orchestra
Scoring: 3fl 3ob eh 3cl cl-b 3fg cfg 4h 3trp 2trb trb(trb-b) tb timp hp str
Remarks: Met voorw. - Cop. MuziekGroep Nederland, 2000. - Tijdsduur: ca. 20'
Duration: 20'00"
Year of composition: 1999
Status: fully digitized (real-time delivery)

Other authors:
Wagner, Richard (On a theme by)
Borstlap, John (Composer)
Program note (English): (Première: 6-3-2001 - Bridgewater Hall, Manchester - New Queen's Hall Orchesatra, cond. Martin Andri)
Psyche is an elaboration of Wagner's sketch 'Romeo und Julie' from 1868, which consists of 13 bars of music, containing a theme and its short development. He wanted to use it for a funeral symphony in memory of the fallen after the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1, but nothing came of it. Wagner kept the material, of which he used a small motive in Parsifal, apart for purely orchestral symphonies he intended to write, but nothing came of that either.
Instead of the story of Romeo and Julliet, the elaboration is based upon the old Greek myth of Eros and Psyche which is also about a love couple, but has a 'happier' ending. The God of Love, Eros, visits the earthly princess Psyche exclusively and incognito at night, fearing the disapproval of his mother, Aphrodite. But Psyche wants to know the identity of her lover and holds a lamp over her sleeping companion, thereby breaking her promise to accept love without knowledge of what it actually is. Eros disappears, and Psyche wanders through the world in search of what she has lost. In the end, on Eros' pleading, Zeus grants her forgiveness and she is elevated to the realm of the Gods, the Olympos.
Psyche consists of three episodes: elegy, development and reconciliation. In the last episode, the material is reworked into a slow recapitulation that does not repeat the elegy, but gives a new meaning to the material. On a symbolical level, the piece is also a reflection upon what happened to the nature of music in the 20th century. As the composer said: 'Too much rationality has chased away the spiritual side of music, that unfathomable quality that speaks through the tones to our inner, emotional life. As in the myth of Eros and Psyche, too much consciousness in combination with not enough confidence in the spiritual realm, may destroy the soul of music. The European tradition has greatly suffered from over-rationalism and it is significant that its last great composers were Strawinsky, and Shostakovich who was able to transcend the utterly painful restrictions of the Soviet-Union and keep the flame intact. It is a great irony and a great tribute to Russian musical life, that the
soul of the European tradition could be kept alive in the prison of a totalitarian society, where it was greatly pressured but also protected from the kind of rationalism to which Strawinsky succumbed in his later years in the free west.'
The starting-point of John Borstlap's musical development began with Schoenberg and it is no coincidence that in Psyche, just before the recapitulation, the first chord of Schoenberg's orchestral Variations is quoted as a symbol of stagnation, which is then resolved in the flow of a purely triadic tonality.' - JOHN BORSTLAP

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