The Harp of Aengus

A performance of Domenico Scarlatti’s Sonata K281 by Wladyslaw Klosiewicz on harpsichord

A Brief Statement on The Harp of Aengus
The Harp of Aengus is based on the harmonic pattern of Scarlatti’s sonata K281. The sonata is in a dance form, with a simple introduction and a easy pace. The colors come from a landscape painting I saw of Tuscany, which included what looked to my eyes to be very blue pointy cedar trees in a golden field with a horizon filled with activity and dense with reds, purples and greens. The title of the work is reference to W.B. Yeats’ poem, The Harp of Aengus.

Edain came out of Midhir’s hill, and lay
Beside young Aengus in his tower of glass,
Where time is drowned in odour-laden winds
And Druid moons, and murmuring of boughs,
And sleepy boughs, and boughs where apples made
Of opal and ruby and pale chrysolite
Awake unsleeping fires; and wove seven strings,
Sweet with all music, out of his long hair,
Because her hands had been made wild by love.
When Midhir’s wife had changed her to a fly,
He made a harp with Druid apple-wood
That she among her winds might know he wept;
And from that hour he has watched over none
But faithful lovers.
William Butler Yeats

In some Irish folklore, Aengus is a god blessed with eternal youth. He is responsible for providing shelter to Etain, woman who has been taken from her husband to live with the Fairy King Midhir. She is tormented by Midhir’wife, who casts a series of spells on her, one of which turns her into a butterfly that is blown out to sea. As a butterfly, Etain hovers around a rock in the ocean for years until she is finally blown back to the shore. On land again, she sees Aengus, and comes to rest on his beautiful colored coat. Although no one else knows that the butterfly is Etain, Aengus does. He is in conflict with Midhir and cannot give her back to him, so he constructs a cage for her as a shelter. Etain flies in and out, carried by Aengus for many years.
The painting starts at the base of a hill and moves vertically up the landscape to the horizon and on to the sky, telling the story of Etain and Aengus in text.