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Lutoslawsky cello concerto at RFH

When the General Manager of the Philharmonia Orchestra asked me to perform the W.Lutoslawsky cello concerto, a certain amount of excitement took over at the prospect of tackling such challenging work.

I set about to discover in greater detail a piece that I only knew by word of mouth and soon became intoxicatedly passionate about. My initial first day was spent only reading the score, with its intricate use of quarter sharps, quarter flats accidentals and complex rhythmic combination, this demanded a lot of concentration in order to be as accurate as possible with the “text”.

The following few days, I little by little discovered the circumstances and ideas behind this masterwork, the struggle between the lone voice ( the solo cello line ) and its rhetorical “partner” (the orchestra ).

This concerto was composed in the less traditional one movement form even though in my opinion it is actually divided into four clear sections.

The beginning of this concerto, commissioned for M.Rostropovitch by the Royal Philharmonic Society, starts with a massive solo cello cadenza type part ( or as I refer to it as the first movement ) a drone line repeated D natural  constantly repeating ( as the composer wrote it in the score between 17-23 times ), a sort of heartbeat sound effect only to be interrupted by violent outburst of fast and vigorous short impulses, but always coming back to this repeated D natural drone.
This thematic material keeps going on, with every time the interrupting outburst to become more and more intense and prominent…until it actually takes over completely and nearly seems like improvised.

This first part develops only to return suddenly to the original opening of the repeated D natural…but this time the interruption comes form the trumpets followed by the brass sections leading into the second part of this concerto. A much more melodious section involving this time the whole orchestra.

A very slow and melancholic section ( or as I call it slow movement ) develops and nurture some wonderful sound effects of lament and sadness…only to once again lead straight into a fast and virtuosic last part involving heavy use of  a wide range of percussion instruments.

This piece is very close to my heart, it is not only a wonderful challenge to tackle on a purely technical aspect but its musical interpretation has to be impeccable in order to really convey the message that the composer tries to put across….a very effective masterpiece in my opinion. If only it was performed more often!

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