Lines written during a sleepless night, returns to the cycle’s central theme, drawing the cycle to a close on an uncomfortable, almost eerie note of uncertainty. And the strange circumstances of the first run-through of the cycle, in the Pushkin Museum, towards the end of their trip to Russia, has certainly added to the disturbing quality of the song, as Pears later recalled in his Armenian Holiday diary:
The last song of the set is the marvellous poem of insomnia, the ticking clock, persistent night-noises and the poet’s cry for a meaning in them. Ben has started this with repeated staccato notes high-low high-low on the piano. Hardly had the little old piano begun its dry tick tock tick tock, than clear and silvery outside the window, a yard from our heads, came ding, ding, ding, not loud but clear, Pushkin’s clock joining in his song. It seemed to strike far more than midnight, to go on all through the song, and afterwards we sat spellbound.
The cycle is dedicated to ‘Galya and Slava’ and was first performed by the dedicatees in the Small Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire, on 2 December 1965.
from notes by John Evans © 2008
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