One summer evening, standing outside on the balcony of a house in the hills of Bavaria, I noticed a lone star, curiously bright in the still-light sky. The sun was just beginning to set, and as the sky got darker, this one star, still standing alone, shone brighter and brighter. I looked across the valley and watched the tree-covered hills get darker, as the star got brighter. Standing there in this solitude, surrounded by the beauty of nature, it was almost a religious experience for me. I decided to record the memory in a piece of music. My German mother-in-law was standing there with me, and I asked her what the name of that star was. She replied, "Abendstern" (evening star), thus naming the piece I was already planning in my head to write and dedicate to her.

This piece contains two elements: the landscape, which I represent with an eighth-note theme harmonized in thirds, and the star, represented by the sustained note "E." At the beginning, the landscape theme is heard in a relatively high register while the star motive is buried in a lower voice. Over the course of the piece, the star gets brighter and brighter as the E moves up to higher octaves. By the end, the landscape descends into the murky darkness, in the celli and double basses. "Abendstern" comes to a close with the star at its brightest, now harmonized, as if by an aura.

Abendstern is available from Theodore Presser.

Abendstern (download MP3)


Indiana University Ad Hoc Orchestra
Paul Mauffray, Conductor