Michael Csányi-Wills outlines the background to the new works on his CD The Last Letter:
The Last Letter
Following the death of my Grandmother, Gabriella Csányi, I found a letter among her possessions. Written on a folded piece of paper were the words: The Last Letter.
As one of the Axis powers, Hungary had a minimal Nazi German presence until 1944, when the pro-fascist Arrow Cross Party began their reign of terror. Jews were deported to concentration camps or shot and thrown into the Danube.
Iréne Csányi was born to a wealthy family in Szeged. She lost her husband to cancer in 1936. Her daughter Gabriella went to London before the war. Her son Charles was dispatched to the forced labour camps in 1943. Iréne kept herself locked away in the family apartment in Budapest, seeing no one but the elderly concierge; out on the streets, the Arrow Cross stalked the city’s remaining Jews. One day in October, she ventured out, leaving behind everything she owned. And an extraordinary letter.
The piece was originally written for Soprano and Piano, but was arranged for Cello and Orchestra for the Welsh Sinfonia in 2013.
“My beloved children,
I’m saying farewell. The pain of being so far from you is unbearable, but know that I’m with you in spirit. Love each other and don’t forget me.
Mrs. Fold will see that this note gets to you. She has been a great comfort to me through all of this: she is a good soul.
You can rely on my lawyer, Dr. Bela Usetty. He handles all my affairs.
Dearest Charles, you will be able to claim some money at the orphan’s court.
Gaby, my darling, my clothes and furs, if any survive, will be yours. Charles will know what to do. My little Charles, the last thing that brought me happiness was the postcard you sent
through Louis’s friend.
Sell up and go abroad.
A million kisses, my dearest ones, and embraces.
Your sad, loving mother.”
Nebulae are vast interstellar clouds of dust, hydrogen, helium and other gases, hundreds of lights years in diameter. The Seagull Nebula was discovered by Welsh amateur astronomer Isaac Roberts and was described by him as, “pretty bright, extremely large, irregularly round, very diffuse.” It is 3,800 light years from Earth, and nearly 240 light-years across.
This piece was commissioned by Mark Eager and the Welsh Sinfonia, and sets out to describe a journey through space, towards the Seagull Nebula. We start in total darkness, flashes of light in the distance, gradually increasing, until we are surrounded by stars. Momentum gathers, and we are thrown into perpetual motion, leaving our galactic plane, past billions of stars, and towards the seagull. As we approach, the gases envelope us and begin to dance around us, as if transported with the bird in flight. As we travel through, the colours dissipate and we return back to flashes of light as we leave the seagull behind us. The final flash of light is seen before being thrown back into darkness.