Length: c. 24 minutes
Orchestration: 3 flutes (3rd = piccolo), 3 oboes ( 2nd & 3rd = oboe d’amore), 3 clarinets (3rd = bass clarinet), 3 bassoons (3rd = contrabassoon), alto saxophone (= soprano saxophone), 2 horns, 2 trumpets (1st = cornet), 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (bass drum, castanets, claves, cowbell, cymbals, glockenspiel, guiro, hi-hat, maracas, ratchet, shaker, side drum, suspended cymbal, tambourine, tenor drum, tom-toms, triangle, vibraphone, whip, wood block), harp, piano (= harpsichord), mandolin, guitar (= electric guitar), cimbalom, glass harp, strings, solo cello, and dancers
First Los Angeles Philharmonic performances (U.S. premiere)
“It is of greater significance that Zimmermann possessed a much higher differentiated musical perception and awareness than most of the composers of his time, that he was able to compose intensively ‘heard-through’ cantilenas and that he had a highly sensitive feeling for when to stand still and then continue, when to pause, when to surprise, and when to consolidate.”
These thoughts, expressed by composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, fully articulate the stylistic and aesthetic peculiarities of post-war German composer Bernd Alois Zimmermann who, in spite of being an award-winning and critically acclaimed composer, took his own life on August 10, 1970, a victim of severe depression. Even though in the 1950s he was a participant in the compositional courses of the Darmstadt School – which included notably the avant-gardists Stockhausen and Boulez, who in the early years of that decade promulgated serial composition and later, aleatory music – Zimmermann did not cut himself off from the vital Western traditions he considered to be his inheritance and which gave to his scores that “much higher differentiated musical perception and awareness.”
For Zimmermann’s compositional style reflected a broad, eclectic pallet of music and philosophical concepts, as inclusive of jazz, popular music, and quotations from past masters such as Bach, Mozart, and Debussy as it was to underlying ecclesiastical references. His use of quotations is not always easily detectable in his music, as he tended to transform those materials rhythmically and melodically, weaving them into the chromatic fabric of his style, often rendering a form of collage more typical of compositional processes of the early 20th century and later postmodern styles. This technique of integrating musical elements from historically diverse musical periods reflected his sense of a simultaneity of past, present, and future merged into an eternal moment freed from any particular style or school; his was a unique compositional voice.
His Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, en forme de pas de trois, was completed in 1966. In many ways Zimmermann has, in five contrasting movements with descriptive titles, created a hybrid ballet/concerto populated with a fairy (La Fée), a princess (La Sentimentale), three white swans, Don Quichote, and three paladins. The finely textured score, ranging from spectral, ethereal atmospheres to marches and stylized dance music, is realized by an orchestration featuring a jazz combo, saxophone, cimbalom, and glass harp embedded within a classical symphony orchestra that perfectly matches the jazz, avant-garde, and classical dance, and instrumental concerto elements. This swirling, surreal work of theater culminates in a final jazzy gesture of instrumental virtuosity.
– Steven Lacoste