• Robert Saxton
  • Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (1993)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra, for the Festival of Britten

  • vc + 2(II:pic).2.2.2/
  • Cello
  • 30 min

Programme Note

My CELLO CONCERTO was commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra for Mstislav Rostropovich, to whom it is dedicated, and was written during 1992 for the LSO's 1993 Festival of Britten.

The Concerto has three linked movements: the first begins with an orchestral exposition presenting the fundamental harmonic and motivic characteristics from which the remainder of the entire piece derives. It is, in fact, a large structural up-beat which resolves onto the cello's first entrance, itself a melodic statement of the initial brass harmonies. After a central section which is a gradual accelerando, there is a varied recapitulation combining aspects of both exposition and central development. Although there has been dialogue between soloist and orchestra, peaceful co-existence has not been achieved by the time the slow movement starts. The cello is alone, the strings gradually entering with a sustained rhythmic canon; this eventually leads to a central tutti, the cello re-asserting itself with its 'song'. This gradually transforms into a dance and ushers in the third movement in which the orchestra challenges the soloist, the latter at times attempting to regain its more lyrical characteristics, but the orchestra overwhelms the cello and reaches a climactic passage before subsiding. Much of the conflict has revolved around the clash between A and B flat, and now the cello traces a slowly ascending line between which the strings sustain notes of the rising melody to form an A major chord - this fades away and the cello continues its ascent to close the piece, over a low pedal A, on a high, anguished B flat. This lack of real resolution reveals the basic background of the concerto, which is dramatic, and even programmatic in a non-specific sense. Suffice it to say that it is a tribute both to Rostropovich's musical profundity and his immense personal courage.

© Robert Saxton


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