• Stuart MacRae
  • Three Pieces for Cello & Piano (1999)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)
  • Cellopf
  • 8 min

Programme Note

The Three Pieces for Cello and Piano were written over a period of nine months from 1998-99.

The first piece developed partly as a response to a very active and complicated piano piece which was being written at the same time. The more spacious, reflective atmosphere of this work, reminiscent of Morton Feldman, results in a very concentrated meditation in which the cello gradually gains prominence over the piano texture. The second piece is an experiment in a new way of writing in which the three voices (two in the piano, one in the cello) act independently, each having its own pace and intervallic character, while at the same time being tied to a unifying harmony.

The third piece exploits a typically 'cellistic' soundworld in its dark colours and passionate outbursts. Although MacRae states strongly that his music is abstract, considerations of the context in which a work was written - including issues in the composer's thoughts at the time - can offer the performer windows into an understanding of the work itself. The cello piece expands upon ideas explored in two earlier pieces for chamber orchestra, where MacRae suggested that a continuum was presented between the base, animal nature of human experience and the poetic, loving side. The cello piece similarly deals with the idea of the containment of violence, and of the paradoxical juxtaposition of contrast and incessance. The analogy between aural space and time and physical space and time, particularly in terms of landscape, is another issue which informs much of MacRae's work, and this too can offer some insights into the piece:

There is a visual/physical model for this idea also - that of looking over horizon after horizon (over different levels of land) but always trying to attain a vision of whatever is beyond (impossible of course; hence the frustration…). In fact, if this piece ever gets a title, "beyond" would probably be it.
Stuart MacRae


© 1999 Susie Winkworth