Duration: 22 minutes
Cello and guitar
First performance: Edenwood Duo, Wouter Vercruysse & Catherine Struys, BANAD festival, 12.3.17, Maison Blérot, Brussels
Listen to the Suite for Cello and Guitar by Alan Charlton, performed by Edenwood Duo (Wouter Vercruysse & Catherine Struys), from the album Cloud and Mirrors:
This work was commissioned in 2005 by Russian cellist Leonid Gorokhov and English guitarist Richard Hand. Unfortunately, Richard Hand died before they were able to premiere the work. It was in 2017 that the work was finally given a premiere by the Edenwood Duo, during a concert in Charlton’s Art Nouveau home, as part of the Brussels Art Nouveau and Art Deco Festival. The suite consists of five contrasting movements or dances. For this piece, Charlton was inspired by mime, imagining a clownish, tragicomic character, only able to communicate through mime. Each movement of the suite conveys different episodes in the character’s life, ranging in mood from comic to dramatic. Charlton uses the piece to explore the rich range of sonorities and sound effects available to both guitar and cello, and creates expressive dialogues between the instruments, in which they imitate and mirror each other. He also develops surprising new textures and harmonic colours by his use of whole-tone and pentatonic scales, while his sudden changes in dynamics and tempo offer great dramatic effect.
The contemplative Intrada introduces our comic character, who seems to stumble clumsily over his own feet. A virtuosic Tarantella follows. Avoiding a melody-accompaniment relationship, both instruments have interchangeable motifs and techniques, including guitar-like chords in the cello. In this dance, full of pauses for catching breath, chromatically shifting melodies form the basis for exciting build-ups in which cello and guitar seem to be involved in a cat-and-mouse chase. The gracious Intermezzo has a strong baroque feeling thanks to the many trills and ornaments, with cello and guitar often mirroring each other in imitative counterpoint. The instruments often find themselves playing in major thirds, resulting in a pleasantly concordant movement. The tender Cantilena stands out from the rest of the Suite with its highly expressive melody in the cello, full of emotionally charged chromaticism. Written in the Lied-form (ABA), this movement has the shape and allure of a late-Romantic song. The cello takes the role of pizzicato-accompanist in the middle section, allowing the guitar to shine as a melodic instrument. The suite ends with a charming and playful Burlesque.
Live performance of Tarantella by Edenwood Duo in Château du Karreveld, Brussels, in presence of the composer, 12th November 2017.
Live performance of Cantilena by Edenwood Duo in the Royal Academy of Music, London.