for solo cello(2015)
|Premiere||October 22, 2015; Miller Theatre, Columbia University, New York City; Matthew Haimovitz, cello|
Bach's solo string music sounds oddly futuristic even today. I first heard the cello suites when I was a child, and I remember noticing the mystical hush that this music could bring over listeners — a strange, beautiful reminder of melody’s power.
When Matt approached me last year, I was daunted at first: how could I create an “overture” for something already so complete, so familiar? Eventually the C major suite offered some answers of its own. The instrument itself is already essentially "in C," its open strings ringing out in that tonality, so I decided to follow up on Bach's own use of the instrument's inherent resonances. I was influenced by how he would vault the listener through the music, using vibrant dance impulses to sustain a sometimes majestically slow harmonic rhythm. Studying Bach's original manuscripts, I saw how underspecifying timbre and articulation would allow the performer to find a more personal interpretation.
It dawned on me that this "overture" should herald the whole work without revealing too much of it. In this way, my piece became compact, active, resonant, and continuous -- a brisk, eventful run through the woods. Thank you for listening.
New York City
August 28, 2015