Sweet Briar Elegies, written in Sweet Briar, Virginia, during the summer of 1992 in the aftermath of the composer’s husband’s unexpected death, Sweet Briar Elegies is set for either soprano saxophone and an ensemble of eight celli or for soprano saxophone and piano.
The work bears an epigram from William Blake’s Songs of Experience:
…and I saw it was filled with graves,
And tombstones where flowers should be:
And Priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars my joys and desires.
William Blake Songs of Experience (1794)
Sweet Briar Elegies’ two movements are not independent elegies but comprise a single elegiac whole. The first movement is a recitative of passionate wistfulness; the second movement, an aria of poignant lyricism and longing interrupted briefly by an ominous, somewhat disturbing middle section.
In this performance, Steve Ling performs the soaring, keening soprano saxophone solo.