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My Blake (Part 2: In England)


Dmitri Nikolaevich Smirnov

Part 1: In Russia appears in Blake 51.4 (spring 2018).

England welcomed us cordially in 1991. Our concert was a success: my Jacob’s Ladder, a musical depiction of William Blake’s magnificent Jacob’s Dream of almost two hundred years before, came from Moscow to London to be played by the London Sinfonietta under the baton of a Russian conductor. It seemed to me that Londoners appreciated this. The horn concerto by my wife, Elena, was equally well received. After the concert we were invited to the Garrick Club, and together with our small children had a joyful dinner until late at night. The next morning we moved from Kensington’s Tara Hotel; our friends took great care of us and took turns in kindly offering us temporary shelter. The newspaper reviews were positive: “Its spiralling motifs and sun-lit instrumental colours [made] a dreamlike counterpart to the visionary William Blake picture which inspired it”; “Inspired by William Blake’s drawing of the Biblical story, this beautifully crafted piece is sectional, with contrasted instrumental groupings marking the boundaries. It is also refined, revealing sensitivity for instrumental characteristics and a predilection for lyrical phrases. The ending, when the first violin emerges from a lovely texture of celesta, vibraphone, bells and the higher stringed instruments is a moment of transcendent magic. It also exemplifies the economy of Smirnov’s writing: not a note was inessential.” Our publishers were pleased and decided to print both our scores.


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