Featuring everything from pops to baroque, classic rock to contemporary easy listening, this concert is sure to make you fall in love with the cello all over again!
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Extra B – Cello Adventures
Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Violincelli in G Minor RV 531 is his only double concerto for cello out of the over 450 concerti that he wrote. It was most likely completed around 1720 for the orchestra at the Ospedale della Pietà, the Venetian orphanage and school where Vivaldi taught. Powerful and lively Allegro movements open and close the piece and a beautiful, sombre Largo appears in the middle. The work features decorative polyphony, canonic imitation and potent unissoni.
Julius Klengel (1859-1933) is one of the most significant cellists in history. He was known as a great teacher and composer of études and solo pieces for the instrument. His Four Pieces for Four Violoncelli are arranged to alternate between faster and slower tempi. The first piece, Lied ohne Worte (Song Without Words) is followed by a baroque gavotte, a lullaby and a traditional nineteenth-century march.
Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805) was a prolific Italian composer of the classical era and virtuoso cellist. He composed hundreds of pieces of chamber music and also wrote 30 symphonies, two operas and a mass. Boccherini is known to have been influential in the development of the string quartet in that he brought the cello to a more prominent role. His Sonata for Two Violoncelli begins with a playful and lyrical Allegro followed by a peaceful Largo and ends with a lively, yet dignified Allegro.
Michael Jackson (1958-2009) composed Smooth Criminal in 1986 for the album Bad with producer Quincy Jones who had studied composition in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and Olivier Messiaen. Bad has sold 35 million copies worldwide and Smooth Criminal is one of its most popular songs. The song is featured in the key of A minor and the lyrics describe a woman named Annie who is attacked in her apartment.
Viva la Vida by English rock group Coldplay was the band’s first number one single and has sold over 7 million copies worldwide. It was awarded the Grammy for Song of the Year in 2009. The song’s title is taken from a painting of the same name by Frida Kahlo de Rivera, a notable Mexican artist. The song is carried by a string section in A flat major and the lyrical content features a protagonist who has lost the kingdom he once ruled.
Valse Sentimentale is the sixth of Tchaikovsky’s Six Pieces for solo piano Op. 51 (1882). The Six Pieces were composed at the request of the editor of the St. Petersburg Journal. Due to an exclusive contract, Tchaikovsky eventually delivered the pieces but was forced to give them to his own publisher instead. The Valse Sentimentale was dedicated to Emma Genton, a governess at an estate, which Tchaikovsky often visited.
English soprano Sarah Brightman (b.1960) is one of the world’s most popular singers. Brightman made her start as a pop artist before switching to Broadway where she skyrocketed to international acclaim. After leaving the stage she became a recording artist of ‘classical crossover’ music and went on to sell more than 30 million albums. Nella Fantasia (In My Fantasy) is based upon an instrumental theme, Gabriel’s Oboe by Ennio Morricone from the film The Mission. Time to say Goodbye is a version of the song Con te partirò that Brightman sang with Andrea Bocelli. Released in 1996 it became the top selling single in history. Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote Don’t Cry for Me Argentina for the musical Evita, about Argentinian leader Eva Perón. Nessun Dorma (None Shall Sleep) is an aria from Giacomo Puccini’s opera Turandot and is among the best-known arias of all time.
The Paris Opéra Comique commissioned struggling composer Georges Bizet (1838-1875) for a full-length opera in 1873. Despite the somewhat risqué story from the 1845 novella by Prosper Mérimée about a Spanish gypsy and her fiery endeavours in life and romance, Carmen premiered on March 3, 1875. The music draws heavily on Spanish influences: highlights include Carmen’s Habanera based on a Cuban dance, and the Toreador Song which is the popular name for an aria sung by the bullfighter Escamillo.
Le cygne (The Swan) is one of fourteen movements from Camille Saint-Saëns’ Le carnaval des animaux (The Carnival of the Animals). Afraid that the light-hearted work would detract from his serious image as a composer, he specified that The Carnival of the Animals should only be published posthumously. He made one exception for Le cygne for solo cello and piano, which he published in 1887. This breathtakingly beautiful piece is slow, legato and is played in the key of G major.
Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) was a significant South American composer who wrote over 2,000 pieces of music that drew upon Brazilian and European influences. His nine suites known as Bachianas Brasileiras are Villa-Lobos’ fusion of the baroque techniques of JS Bach and Brazilian folk music. Most movements have two names: one baroque and one Portuguese. The Bachianas Brasileras No 1 was composed in 1930 and the ‘Modinha’ of the second movement Prelúdio (Modinha) refers to a sentimental type of traditional Brazilian love song.
As the name suggests, Mysterium e Grandioso has two parts. The first begins with energy s the first cello plays a theme using the blues scale. The chanted words “Cello a tha cool” are brought in. The music then slips into a subdued mood with a theme consisting of cluster chords. The first chord, for example, has the tonic, second and minor third – the first three notes used in the opening theme, but now played together. The second part of the piece is a joyous fantasia using parts of JS Bach’s famous Prelude to the Solo Cello Suite in G Major, ending with the words “Cello, way cool”. — Mark Rodgers
Steven Sharp Nelson of the Piano Guys, a group of musicians from St. George, Utah, dedicates his arrangement of Pachelbel’s Canon in D to ‘all the cellists that have fallen asleep while playing this song’. This version features many ‘extended techniques’ such as tapping, plucking, strumming, and much more in order to breathe new life into the old standard. Nelson’s video of Rockelbel’s Canon in D has nearly 20 million views on YouTube.
Reinhold Glière (1874-1956), a major composer of the former Soviet Union, was known for incorporating Russian folk music into his work. He gained international acclaim in 1927 with his ballet, Krasny mak (The Red Poppy). His adaptation of the Russian chastushka (humorous folk-tune) Yablochko (Little Apple), marked in the score as Dance of the Sailors from the Soviet Ship, is popularly known as The Russian Sailors Dance. This has since become the composer’s best-known work.