October 22, 2015—January 25, 2016
for Bonnie Thron and Grant Llewellyn
|Full Score, PDF Cover|
Chamber version for Cello and Two Pianos
MP3 Recordings of Movements I and III by Bonnie Thron, cello; Nancy Whelan and David Heid, pianos. Movements II and IV are from the premiere (see below).
Videos are of the premiere performance by Bonnie Thron, cello; David Heid, Deborah Lee Hollis, pianos, Baldwin Auditorium, Duke University, September 18, 2016 (CVNC review)
Video and audio recorded by Rick Nelson
I. Over the Stone (Tros y Garreg) MP3 Video
Adagio; Cyflym; Adagio; Cyflym;
Cymadrol; Ychydig yn gyflymach [9:33]
Heart Song Largo
[7:54] MP3 Video
III. Contradanza Fidelio [2:07] MP3
IV. Schlimmbesserung Vivace [7:18] MP3 (Mov. 4) Video (Mov. 3 & 4)
I have had the pleasure of making music with cellist Bonnie Thron and her husband clarinetist Fred Jacobowitz since 2008. When she asked me in the summer of 2015 to write her a cello concerto, I got started as soon as other projects were done.
The theme for the first movement is the traditional Welsh song “Tros y Garreg”, or “Over the Stone”. The song is attributed to Rhys Bodychen, who fought at the Battle of Bosworth Field on the side of the Tutors against Richard III in 1485. The lyrics reflect on those who have fallen in battle. This melody has been altered from the original by George Thompson, who published Welsh airs in 1809, 1811, and 1817. I prefer his version for this purpose to the original. Note that the end of the melody resembles the theme from the last movement of J. S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, which factors into my treatment. Also, the traditional harp music of Wales led me to have an important harp part throughout this concerto.
I made a point of using particularly incomprehensible, unspellable, and unpronounceable Welsh words for tempo markings in the first movement. Cyflym means “fast”; Cymedrol means “moderate”; Ychydig yn gflymach means “a little faster.”
The very short third movement started life back about 1990 as the second movement of my Fourth Sonata for Solo Violin. (There are a total of ten such sonatas.) Until recently I thought it was a tango, as I am easily bored with details in music theory and sometimes don’t look things up. In fact it is a contradanza, a dance form originating in Havana--hence the tempo marking “Fidelio”. The solo cello part can be performed by itself in a pinch. The instrumentation in the third movement is the same as the rest of the piece, except that it lacks the second trumpet.
The fourth movement is titled Schlimmbesserung, which is German for “an effort to make things better that ends up making things worse”.
Instrumentation: two flutes (first flute doubles piccolo), two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, timpani, harp, solo cello, and strings.
As the harp has a prominent part, it should be located in proximity to the soloist, not in the back as usual.
Accidentals hold through the measure and not beyond, and do not apply to octaves.Cover art: frontispiece from Musical and poetical relicks of the Welsh bards
by Edward Jones, 1784.