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Fred Lerdahl’s "Give and Take" at Musica nova Helsinki

This week, the Musica nova Helsinki Festival hosts Fred Lerdahl as one of three composers in residence. The biannual festival is Finland’s largest contemporary music festival and one of the leading events of its kind in Europe. Give and Take is the third work Lerdahl has written for the festival’s artistic director, Finnish cellist Anssi Karttunen.

Karttunen gave the piece its world premiere on February 9th at the Helsinki Music Center’s Camerata Hall with his frequent collaborator Ernst Kovacic on violin. This year’s edition of Musica nova Helsinki also features performances of Lerdahl’s Imbrications, Spirals, and Time After Time, all of which are available on PSNY.

With Give and Take, which is dedicated to Karttunen, Lerdahl pays tribute to the festival’s theme of “Dialogues.” Lerdahl elaborates:

The title Give and Take evokes the responsive and varied interaction of the violin and cello throughout the piece. They are in an intense conversation, sometimes echoing and elaborating one another, other times each going its own way in its own tempo, still other times one breaking off with a change in direction that is soon followed by the other.

Lerdahl’s two previous works for Kartunnen, Arches and There and Back Again, both premiered in 2010. Lerdahl wrote There and Back Again, a short piece for solo cello, to commemorate the cellist’s 50th birthday. Arches, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, was the result of a Fromm Foundation commission. The works premiered just four days apart, with Kartunnen traveling to New York from his 50th birthday concert in Amsterdam to give the premiere of Arches at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre. Listen to a sample of There and Back Again below:

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