Concerto for Cello and Ten Players

Richard Wernick

Duration: 00:26:00
Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

There seems to be a curious inverse proportion in music history that the more well-known a piece of music, the more we generally tend to forget the performer for whom the piece was originally composed. This is unfortunate, for although the creative impulses which are triggered by having specific interpreters in mind can never be measured, the fact of their existence can hardly be denied. That many of these composer-performer relationships have been documented is also insufficient, for the intensity as well as the subtlety of these relationships cannot be communicated verbally (even if historians could appreciate the ?chemistry? ? which I rather doubt). And while it is also true that any work of art takes on a life of its own, and one that is vastly different from the temporal or historical existence of the composer or performer, the influence of the performer before the fact is often one of critical importance.
Although creative vision tends to see the ?ultimate? performance in terms of some utopian ideal. I for one cannot sustain that vision for very long. I tend to hear specific instruments in terms of specific players, specific voices in terms of specific singers, and when it came to composing a concerto for cello I found this influence to be, at the same time, inspiring and demanding.

I have had the good fortune to develop close professional and personal relationships with many performers whom I consider to be ?kindred spirits,? performers whose musical integrity co-exists with an astonishing command of their instruments and a profound understanding and ability to communicate new music. Barbara Haffner, who has been a close colleague and friend for many years and for whom I composed my "Cadenza and Variations III" in 1972, is one of those rare musicians. She is a player of great passion, energy, and subtlety, and even at a distance the "Concerto" was composed with her ?looking over my shoulder.? The end product, in great part, is a result of this ?collaboration,? and the "Concerto" is dedicated to her.

The piece was originally conceived in 1979, and was commissioned by the Twentieth Century Consort, with generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts. I spent the greater part of 1980 working on the piece ?composing, copying, editing, and revising ?all the wonderful (and not so wonderful) aspects of getting a piece into its final shape. The first movement is highly rhapsodic, both in terms of its content and its form. Three principal section, all harmonically related, are played off against one another in a very loose application of ?rondo? style. The second movement is an extended set of variations on an all-interval, chromatically expanding ?theme? which is present in some form or other throughout. The principal material of the movement is summed up in the cello cadenza which preceded the recapitulation-coda.

The solo cello dominates both movements. The writing for the soloist is vigorous and aggressive, and while the part is modest in its use of special effects, it is highly demanding and requires an artist in total technical control.

Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by Twentieth Century Consort, with assistance from National Endowment for the Arts, 1980
Composition Date 1979
Orchestration Ob. B.Cl. Cbsn. Hn. Tpt. Tbn. Vln. Cb. Hp. Perc.
Premiere 1st February 1981. Barbara Haffner, Cello, Twentieth Century Consort, Christopher Kendall, conductor; Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, DC.


1 Entrada
2 Passacaglia

Score Preview