• John McCabe
  • Cello Concerto (Songline) (2007)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the Hallé Concerts Society for first performance by Truls Mørk and the Hallé Orchestra, conducted by Mark Elder CBE at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, England, on 17 January 2008.

  • 22224.2.2+btbn.1timp.3perchpstr
  • Cello
  • 23 min

Programme Note

The Songlines are the invisible pathways of the Australian aboriginals, routes that they sing into life, naming or relating to everything they see or encounter. These are both physical ways that they walk, during which process every feature of the landscape also has some tribal or mythical significance, and also psychological routes by which they trace their culture. Bruce Chatwin’s memorable book The Songlines vividly conveys the various meaning of these routes. It has for a long time seemed to me that we all do something like this anyway, when we travel anywhere, revisit old haunts, encounter old friends, and so on, and this Cello Concerto “sings” its journey through the exploration of its material – though the use of the singular “Songline” indicates that this is just one of many possible routes through the music. Not all songs need to be slow – indeed, the beginning of the Concerto exploits a very quick tempo for quite a long time, and the short ending resumes this quietly energetic progress, albeit briefly (the actual ending may give some listeners a bit of a start, so to speak). The heart of the work, however, is to be found in the elaborate song melody played by the cello in the central slow section. The work plays without a break and lasts about 23 minutes. It is scored for a normal symphony orchestra, but with only double woodwind, and a fairly restricted percussion section (though from time to time the xylophone has a good deal to do). The scoring is, on the whole, fairly light and (I hope) clear, to allow the cello to sing its journey.

Programme Note © Copyright 2007 by John McCabe

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