• David Blake
  • Cello Concerto (1992)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the BBC

Study score is available to buy

  • 2(pic)2(ca)2(bcl)2(cbn)/2220/timp.2perc/pf/str
  • cello
  • 25 min

Programme Note

Lento - Allegro -
Frettalosamente -

Commissioned by the BBC for Moray Welsh and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
The first performance was given by Moray Welsh, cello, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Alexander Lazarev in Cheltenham Town Hall as part of the Cheltenham Festival on 4 July 1993.

This is my second concerto. The first, also commissioned by the BBC, was for violin and was given its premiere by Iona Brown at the 1976 Proms.

In 1975 I was working on my opera Toussaint and in order to achieve the deadline for the concerto, had to stop work in the middle of Act II, leave the world of black politics and the Haitian struggle against colonialism and slavery and think myself immediately into an entirely different musical atmosphere - the Violin Concerto is related to Italian matters, the countryside, Michelangelo and, of course, opera. I didn't have too much trouble because one of the fundamental issues, the relationship of soloist to orchestra, was clear to me.

The Cello Concerto and its gestation also got entangled with an opera - my second, The Plumber's Gift, which was first performed at the London Coliseum in May-June 1989. Once again the concerto was to have no overlap of subject matter with the opera, but this time the transition was more difficult and my attempts to write it in the latter half of 1989 were unsuccessful. In the end it was completed in May of 1992. It is scored for an orchestra of modest size and lasts about 25 minutes. Although there are the traditional three movements, they are played without a break and the sequence of events is a little idiosyncratic.

The first movement juxtaposes two types of material - the first expressive and lyrical, with a hint of the pastoral, and the second agitated and abrupt. Into this is interpolated a passage of stillness with a chant-like theme in the wind. The 'scherzo', played hastily, is very short and tongue-in-cheek. The third, longest, movement is a set of free variations over a passacaglia-like bass heard in bar two below the busy figuration of the soloist. References back to the first movement begin to occur until, almost tat the end, the 'chant' is heard again, this time with a cantabile contribution from the solo cello.

The Concerto was written for my friend Moray Welsh, who was an undergraduate at York University in the sixties when I was a very inexperienced lecturer. Since then we have collaborated many times. In 1972 I wrote my Scenes for solo cello for him and between 1980 and 1987 he was a member of my ensemble, Lumina.

© David Blake


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