This Thursday 4th December I am playing my Masters recital – a rich programme for solo cello of signature works by Master Cellists including the Irish premiere of Gregor Piatigorsky’s Suite for Cello, Pablo Casals Song of the Birds, Gaspar Cassado Suite for Solo Cello and an Irish premiere of Sibelius’ recently discovered Theme and Variations in D minor. Also Threnody by Australian composer Peter Sculthorpe and a couple of my own compositions, The River and Soilse in Darkness. It has been a challenge and enjoyment to get this programme together! If you are near Cork, do come along!
Here is some information on the music…
Three Pieces Gregor Piatigorsky (1903 – 1976)
Prayer (in homage to Ernest Bloch)
A Stroll (Prokofiev meets Shostakovitch)
The cellist Piatigorsky was once described as the greatest string player of all time. He was born in Ekaterinoslav (now Dnipropetrovsk in Ukraine) into a Jewish family. This collection of works were very popular and he often played them in his concerts. He "wrote" A Stroll in about 1938 in Paris as a joke to Prokofiev. He never used any reference to Shostakovich until much later, making it a little more entertaining….. He played A Stroll and Prayer in his last concert in May 1976 in Grinnell, Iowa. Collected from performance recordings by American cellist Terry King, the music had never been written down or published. Many thanks to Terry, who transcribed the pieces and was kind enough to email me the otherwise unobtainable music. Terry confirms this performance marks the work's Irish debut.
Threnody Peter Sculthorpe (1929 – 2014)
Australia composer Scuthorpe often wrote music to evoke the Australian outback and bushland. In one movement, Threnody, written in 1991/2, is made up of four sections: Cantando; Con malinconia; Risoluto; Con rassegnazione. The work is based upon the main theme of Sculthorpe’s orchestral piece Kakadu, this theme being a free adaptation of an Aboriginal lament from Elcho Island, in the Arafura Sea.
Suite for Violoncello Solo Gaspar Cassadó (1897 – 1966)
Intermezzo e Danza Finale
This is probably this Cellist composers' best known and most often performed composition. Inspired by Catalan music and dance.
El Cant dels Ocells (Song of the Birds) Traditional
Song of the Birds is the Catalan folk song which became a signature piece performed by the great Catalan cellist Pablo Casals in recognition of the plight of refugees around the world. After his exile in 1939, he would begin each of his concerts by playing this song. In an acknowledgement of his stance for peace, justice and freedom Casals was offered the United Nations Peace Medal in 1971. At that occasion Casals performed Song of the Birds and made a speech. In it he said, “Birds sing when they are in the sky, they sing: 'Peace, Peace, Peace,'
The solo arrangement I perform is by David Johnstone, principal cellist of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Navarra, Spain.
Birds' voices rise in song
And warbling all night long
Express their glad heart’s lightness
from El Cant dels Ocells
Theme and Variations in D minor Jean Sibelius (1865 -1957)
Sibelius wrote his Theme and Variations in D minor in 1887, and it is possibly the earliest solo cello work written in Finland. It was most likely written for the composer's cellist brother, Christian.
The work was never published in Sibelius' lifetime, was rediscovered in 1995, and has only recently been published. It is quite likely this performance marks the work's Irish debut.
The Water Cycle Ilse de Ziah
Solace in Darkness
The River is based on a journey of a river from its inception of the first few drops of rain on a mountain. The piece sonically interprets the flow in all its states of stillness, rapids, a gentle meandering and finally its mouth at the sea.
Solace in Darkness is inspired by Indian tabla rhythms combined with a guitar-like heavy metal rendering. It speaks of an intense tropical thunderstorm filled with heat, electricity and fierceness, and the relief that the rain brings.
As for me, the violoncello is a part of all things, and a central substance of this universe.