Rorem’s bitchy recollection of a “collapsed romance” inspired Picnic on the Marne: Seven Waltzes. The romance with Claude Benedick was hot in the 1950s, but by 1967 all that was left was rancor.  He spews his anger in The New York Diary; “Sweet memories,” he writes, ” will always be soiled by your action. Loving afternoons on the banks of the Marne before we met is preferable now. And you name me cloying because I’d rather be called angel than bitch. My life did not stop with you; it did, however, stop and start with you.”

Picnic on the Marne is an allusion to Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photograph Sunday on the Banks of the Marne (1938). It’s written for saxophone and piano is joyless and angular, consistent with narrative titles bristling with unhappiness: “Driving from Paris,” “A Bend in the River,” “Bal Musette,” “Vermouth,” “A Tense Discussion,” “Making Up,” and “The Ride Back to Town.”

See Ned Rorem. The Paris Diary: George Braziller,1966; The New York Diary. New York: George Braziller,1967; The Paris Diary & The New York Diary 1951-1961. New York: Da Capo Press, 1998.

Featured Image: Ned Rorem. Picnic on the Marne. Boosey & Hawkes: London, 1984. First edition of the score.