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About this Piece


Composed: 1997-2001

Orchestration: 2 flutes, oboe, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet , 2 bassoons, 2 horns, harp, strings, and solo cello

A few years ago, an acquaintance of mine, a brilliant young violinist, lost her two young children in tragic circumstances. For the memorial service for little Alexandra and Daniel, a group of composer colleagues and I each contributed a small piece to mark this occasion, which was not only heart-rending, but also one that was suffused with a great deal of love.

A short time before this event, Yo-Yo Ma appeared as soloist on my soundtrack recording of Seven Years in Tibet. The score included a short melodic fragment which I thought might be expanded, so I shaped it into the form of the present Elegy, always with the cello in mind. The original version of the piece was for piano and cello and was beautifully performed at the memorial service by John Walz, an outstanding Los Angeles cellist. When the opportunity to record a CD with Yo-Yo Ma emerged, I decided to orchestrate the Elegy and Yo-Yo kindly agreed to record it.

— John Williams