• Bryce Dessner
  • Tuusula (2016)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Commissioned by Meidän Festivaali, Sounds from a Safe Harbour, and National Sawdust.

  • cello
  • 10 min

Programme Note

I composed this solo work for cellist Nicolas Altstaedt two summers ago when I was composer in residence at Pekka Kuusisto’s beautiful chamber music festival, Meidän Festivaali, in Sibelius’s hometown of Tuusula. Tuusula is small lake town about 40 minutes from Helsinki, and was a haven for composers and painters in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The place remains untouched by development with all the original houses standing as they were. Sibelius’s beautiful house, Ainola, is now a museum, and Pekka’s small festival is held next door in a set of cabins and wooden performance spaces that date from the same era. I was inspired by Pekka’s amazing ability to bring together artists from disparate backgrounds, including some of Europe’s finest chamber musicians, as well as a deeply original mix of repertoire—old music and new music without prejudice to either—and with audiences seemingly willing to follow him in any direction. The place itself, the woods and water and light, inspired me to write this cello solo for Nicolas, which was not planned as part of the festival. I would write a bit of the piece every day, which accounts for its improvisatory feeling, and at the end of the week Nicolas premiered it in a chapel on the edge of the lake where Sibelius was baptized. Afterwards, the three of us rowed a wooden boat across the lake and had a sauna. According to Pekka, this is not an entirely uncommon occurrence in Finland.

—Bryce Dessner