From the dictionary, “Arcadia” means a pastoral district of ancient Greece, or any place of rural peace and simplicity. It refers as well the mythic land of human origin. The title Arcadia II has a double intent: it is the second piece of mine with the title Arcadia, and it is a musical prayer for the well being of Earth and a return to an attitude of reverence for the Earth.
The Concerto uses a traditional concerto form: faster outer movements surrounding a slow middle movement. The outer movements are both in sonata form (exposition of themes, development, recapitulation), and the middle movement has the feel of an extended song.
The first movement arises from darkness. I remember standing in a New Hampshire meadow on a summer evening. One by one the fireflies lit up until the darkening field was alive with their activity. The tiny opening bell sounds of this movement are the fireflies. Out of this grows a mournful bittersweet music which rises to a high intensity and then fades.
The second movement is a nature meditation. It comes directly from my walks in Inwood Hill Park in upper Manhattan. This hundred-acre wood is the last “wild” parkland in New York City. Though faint and crowded on all sides by urban noise, the voices of nature can still be heard in these woods. They suggested a music in which the human presence (the solo marimba) communes with the sounds of wind, birds, the rustling of small things, the flow of water -all represented in the ensemble.
The last movement is infused with a spirit of playfulness, light, and simple joy in the glories of nature. There is an assertive opening theme, a serene and pastoral second theme, an extended development which rises to moments of epiphany (wind and glittering sunlight in the rustling leaves), a cadenza, and a recapitulation with the second theme coming first.
Program note by David Maslanka