The Stars Have Withdrawn Their Shining
Harp: Sioned Williams
The World Première of The Stars Have Withdrawn Their Shining filled the Purcell Room, London on 10 February 2001. The piece was commissioned by Sioned Williams for solo harp and is based upon the life of John Ruskin. The work has been recognised as a major contribution to harp repertoire and has received unprecedented praise.
'Stimpson's piece had a felt unity and strength of purpose through all its varied writing, lights and shades, highs and lows, complex rhythms. This important piece ought to be repeated and if possible commercially recorded. Only then, on repeated hearings, like all good music will it reveal all its secrets.' (UK Harp Association Journal)
"The title, The Stars Have Withdrawn Their Shining, is a modified quote from a late work of the 19th century artist, critic, philosopher, and reformer, John Ruskin. The was been written to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his death. The piece itself follows the form of a sonatina, three movements in all, but in reality it is more a personal reflection of Ruskin’s life than a musical structure. Throughout, there is a somewhat ethereal and even innocent quality, but this is counter-balanced by elements of trouble and conflict, much of which was found in his personal life and the society in which he played such an important role. In this I will not be too specific, with the exception of the second movement. Here, a strong connection is made between Ruskin’s association with Rose La Touche, a young girl with whom Ruskin fell deeply in love – a relationship which ultimately ended in tragedy.
Ruskin himself wrote much about ‘beauty’ and its interpretation. Towards the end of his life he declared 'I have come to the conclusion that it is not Art that I loved but Nature’. The original quote appearing in The Storm-Cloud of the 19th Century , which Ruskin took from the Bible (Joel ii 10) was ‘The light shall be darkened in the heaven thereof, and the stars shall withdraw their shining.’. My alteration of the title to ‘have withdrawn’ reflects my own pessimism about Nature (environment), 100 years on.