Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra
— Samuel Jones
Program Notes by the composer
My Cello Concerto was premiered on September 11, 2010, by the brilliant young cellist Julian Schwarz, accompanied by his father, Gerard Schwarz, conducting the Seattle Symphony. The work was written to honor Gerard Schwarz upon the opening of his final season as Music Director of the Seattle Symphony, a remarkable 26-year tenure of historic accomplishments.
The dimensions of this concerto are somewhat smaller than those of my earlier concertos. Whereas each of those (one each for tuba, horn, and trombone) is scored for full orchestra and is 25 to 26 minutes long, this new concerto is conceived for a Mozart-sized orchestra (with the addition of a few percussion instruments) and is some 22 minutes in duration. Although there are the traditional three movements, they are connected and are to be played without pause. And the three movements are connected in another, more fundamental way. Each movement is related to the others as they explore different permutations of a central thematic idea, a neighboring-tone motive that is separated in the first two movements by octave displacement and in the final movement is brought into the close confines of stepwise motion.
The second movement opens with an especially lyrical transformation of the central motive. In the middle section of this movement I quote a melody from one of Gerard Schwarz’s own compositions, In Memoriam, for solo cello and string quartet, which he dedicated to the memory of David Tonkonugai, who was a member of the Symphony’s cello section and the first teacher of his son Julian.
The concerto begins with a bold, unaccompanied assertion by the solo cello, a sweeping proclamation which also plays a central role in the unfolding architecture of the piece. I have endeavored to write a work that exploits and celebrates the inimitable qualities of this great instrument, its capacity for drama, lyricism, and depth of expression, as well as its exciting technical capabilities.