Commissioned by Charles Curtis with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts
This concerto came together as an homage to the Sicilian opera composer Vincenzo Bellini. It takes as its source material a folksong, Trallallera, sung by Italian folk singer Maria Carta (below). I first transcribed the song with a painstaking accuracy to Carta’s performance, in an attempt to steal her vibrancy, her constant striving/soaring to the top of the phrase. From there I harmonized the song out of context, and I simply expanded it, as a tip-of-the-hat to Bellini’s “long, long, long melodies.”
The question then came of the relationship between the cello and the orchestra. What a fantastic delight to work with Charles Curtis, to be inspired by his intimate, thoughtful way with sound, and by his exceptional understanding of resonance. I found it, at first, a challenge to think of how the extroverted, romantic world I so craved in the orchestra could manifest in the single cello line. I found my answer in the humbly simple accompaniment style of Bellini’s arias – and I asked Charles to be the inward-looking protagonist of this story.
A great debt of thanks is owed to Charles for his immense generosity of time and insight; to Maestro Ilan Volkov for bringing Charles and myself together for this project (also for the audaciousness/irreverence of his inspired programming); and to the Canada Council for the Arts for supporting the commission. The piece is dedicated to the memory of Bob Gilmore, a man whose stories have lent meaning to our music-making. His work will continue to sustain and nourish our field for decades/centuries to come.
The complete recording made by the BBC is no longer available online. However, a reviewer has made it available for download here. Another beautiful review of the piece is found on Lawrence Dunn’s blog here.