Birds of Paradise was originally composed for solo piano with orchestra. This edition is arranged by the composer for two pianos, with the second piano playing a reduction of the orchestral part. As two parts are needed for performance, there are two copies of the score included in this set.
From the introduction:
Birds of Paradise, Op. 34, created extraordinary interest when it was given its first performance (April 29, 1964) by the Eastman-Rochester Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Howard Hanson. A work of mysterious beauty, it reveals a comparatively new aspect of the composer's creative imagination. He has written of it: :"The musical ideas on which Birds of Paradise is based are taken from sounds of nature heard in remote places: in woods and forests, at the ocean shore, in the mountains. That other world of strange sounds, not man-made, the true primeval music, is both the subject matter and the poetical idea of the piece: the rustlings, the murmurings, the sudden silences, the sustained shrill excitement of vociferous bird calls, their merriment, and their mourning; the simplicity and the purity of the single voice, and the incalculable random complexity, the cacophony of the total aural impression, a veritable 'cauldron of sound.' In the runic repetitious incantations of birds, seemingly always the same, but in fact always different, some sense of the meaning of timelessness can be felt.
"The title, Birds of Paradise, is used in a figurative sense. These most beautiful of all birds occur in over 40 species and display in their varied forms all the extravagant creativeness of nature. They are a prototype of the continual inventiveness found in growing natural things. The sounds produced by these birds are haunting cries, ranging from weak peeps and mews to caws, buglings, trumpetings, snaps, hisses, raps, and even clatterings that sound like bursts from a machine gun. Other calls are long, melancholy, bell-like tolls that reverberate ventriloquially. Though perhaps not beautiful in any traditional sense, they are strangely urgent and compelling."