• Therese Ulvo
  • If we ever become separated (2022)

  • Edition Wilhelm Hansen Copenhagen (World)

Commissioned by Bergen Philharmonic Orchesera

  • pic(fl,ob,bb-cl,bcl,bn,cbn,f-hn,ctpt,tbn,btbn,tnrbsstrbn,tba,timp,cel,perc,strnginst)
  • - - timp/perc/celesta/str
  • cello
  • 27 min

Programme Note

On 5 March 2020, the Bergen Philharmonic premiered my double piano concerto in a packed Griegehall.
There was already an unclear and strange atmosphere in society that week, but the concert continued. It would be the last concert with an audience of standard size for an unimaginably long time. I went home to Eidsvoll and started working on the cello concerto. I read Astrid Lindgren’s classic Mio, min Mio to my youngest child and was deeply moved by it. Not all revisitation of books/films/art/music live up to the memory or endure the relentlessness of time, but ‘Mio, min Mio’ was still magnificent for me in every way. The rich and tactile language, a viewpoint alternating between 12 beautifully-shaped chapters and an organic, complete whole.

In the book, the children play flutes and learn a very special melody that only they know. They agree that if they ever get separated, they will play this tune on the flutes and find each other again. Isn't this precisely what happened to all of us when the country shut down? We were separated and were not allowed to be together. We were unprepared and didn’t quite know how to communicate. Musicians live from, with, and for the passionate community on stage - where would they now find their arena? I brought this particular thought about call signs, communication, and the search for community into the musical work. At the same time, I also thought that after this very unmagical time, we need more adventure in our lives. Let your imagination flourish, and the real human encounters inspire. The music in the piece is, in many ways, simple and perhaps even a little naive. It is not program music, but the work has, like the book, 12 parts where the musical material within each region is sometimes insisted upon and stands on its own. I switch between different palettes in the orchestral sound, and several of the parts are chamber music with a focus on specific groups of instruments. The soloist is the one who takes us through different sound worlds and textures, and all the time, she explores the search for community in the orchestra and tries to “talk” with them and find her place. Sometimes she finds fellow players, while there is no response, and she remains lonely at other times. Loneliness can, for many, be just as big a challenge even without prohibition and imposed isolation. One of the unique things during the exception period was the commonality of rules and intervention measures. We were together about not being able to choose. Most of us have rushed out and on as fast as possible, but there are people left who cannot find their language and their melody. Perhaps a whistle in the pocket could help some of these.

- Therese Ulvo, 2022