This work was composed during the winter of 1999-2000 for the cellist Helen Thatcher, to whom it is dedicated in friendship and admiration.
The title refers to two poems by the metaphysical poet John Donne, both concerned with aspects of parting and farewell. I originally wanted to set them for voice, but this never seemed to work and instead the settings developed into two instrumental paraphrases, which follow the original texts in a very free way.
The first, “A Valediction of Weeping” centres on the idea of parting lovers each carrying the image of the other reflected in their tears. The second, “A Valediction Forbidding Mourning” is about one of the lovers going on a journey. Here the image of a map and a pair of dividers illustrates the idea of one pointer remaining fixed but leaning towards the other pointer as it moves on its circular journey.
The work, which is lyrical throughout, is generally suffused with a feeling of farewell and loss, not least reflecting the period of its composition – on the cusp of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.