"Blizzard in Paradise" for 8 cellos (West coast premiere)
Augusta Read Thomas
Note from the composer:
“My favorite moment in any piece of music is the moment of maximum risk and striving. Whether the venture is tiny or large, loud or soft, fragile or strong, passionate, erratic, ordinary or eccentric! Maybe another way to say this is the moment of exquisite humanity and raw soul. All art that I cherish has an element of love and recklessness and desperation. I like music that is alive and jumps off the page and out of the instrument as if something big is at stake.
“In the past, I have composed many works for cello: Vigil for cello and orchestra, for Norman Fischer and the Cleveland Chamber Symphony; Chanson for Mstislav Rostropovich and the Boston Symphony Orchestra; Ritual Incantations for David Finckel and the Aspen Music Festival Orchestra; Passion Prayers for cello and 6 players for Scott Kluksdahl; Chant for piano and cello for the Fischer Duo; Bells Ring Summer for solo cello for David Finckel; Spring Song for solo cello for Scott Kluksdahl; 2 Klee Studies for solo cello.
“The cello is my favorite instrument; I always feature it in my orchestral writing and my string quartet or chamber music compositions. Composing music that does not have cello as part of its instrumentation is difficult for me and I hope to write many more works for cello over the next 50 years! I would like to die having left a large body of works for this sublime and gorgeous instrument. If I could do life all over — I would want to play the cello!
“When asked to write this work for eight cellos by the Library of Congress, it was a project that immediately resonated with my interests. I was delighted at the prospect; but, having written so much music for cello, I wanted to find a new sound world that was completely honest and personal yet also one that would push my development as a composer for the instrument. There is nothing worse than a composer who rewrites the same piece ten times over in different packaging, so I try to make each of my works fresh and new, although still within my own stylistic vocabulary.
“Most of my cello works are long line, lyrical, cantabile, passionate and bold adventures. I love the bow arm! While the first movement of Blizzard in Paradise is singing, lush and lyrical, the score, in general, contains a great deal of pizzicato for all eight players. In the second movement, all the cellos play only pizzicato, which results in a wonderful sound — like a blizzard in paradise — comprised of rhythmic-unison sections which are then alternated by rhythmically-disparate sections which sound like popcorn hopping in all directions or like rain in the windowpane during a blizzard. The work calls for pizzicato tremolos and some Bartók pizzicato as well. The first movement explores long lines, mellifluous writing and colorful sonorities. All eight cello parts are equally technically difficult and equally lyrical so that this work shows off all eight musicians evenly. In general the work explores the higher registers of the instrument.
“Blizzard in Paradise was commissioned by the Kindler Foundation in the Library of Congress, in memory of Hans Kindler. Leonard Slatkin conducted the National Symphony Orchestra cello section in the world premiere performance on October 3, 2001 at the Library of Congress.”