While Toward the Splendid City was composed as a portrait of New York, the city in which I live, it was written almost entirely away from home. Work on the piece began in Seattle in the spring of 1992 and was completed in mid-August of that year in Taos, New Mexico. At the time I was nearing the end of a year-long residency with the Seattle Symphony, and had serious second thoughts about returning to New York. Life was always complicated in the city and easier, it seemed, everywhere else. I was, however, not without a certain pang of nostalgia for my home town, and as a result Toward the Splendid City was driven by my love-hate relationship with New York. It was, needless to say, a relationship badly in need of resolution.
Eventually, upon returning to Manhattan, I began to understand that the humanity and the difficulty of New York were inseparable — and that if in the difficulties of urban life humanity is to be embraced, then the inconveniences must also be accepted.
The work’s title comes from the heading of Pablo Neruda’s Nobel Prize address in 1974, in which he included the following: “We must pass through solitude and difficulty, isolation and silence, to reach forth to the enchanted place where we can dance our clumsy dance and sing our sorrowful song — but in this dance or in this song there are fulfilled the most ancient rites of our conscience in the awareness of being human.”
Toward the Splendid City is, in addition to being a portrait of New York, a tribute to its Philharmonic Orchestra.