SUITE
for Solo Cello

By Christopher Fulkerson


Christopher Fulkerson and Thalia Moore at the
VIEWS OF THE FESTIVAL concert
Old First Concerts, May 10, 2009

 

 

The Suite for Solo Cello is one of the fruits of my more recent "studio" technique, having been assembled from pieces that were written at various times, collected, and refined until they made good sense together. It was completed in 2005, from sketches dating as far back as 1999. Sixteen minutes long, it is in five movements. The movement titles reflect the character of the music.

In this piece I have tried to create balances between the types of contrast within and between the movements, and to keep the devices suitable to their tasks. The first movement surprised me with its warmth and motion; I like the way the intervals open invitingly throughout, and am pleased to have discovered this type of composition. I have never believed that continuous dissonance per se has to be part of modern music, the way, say, Carl Ruggles thought, though I love his music. Dissonance is the option of the truly free composer, though of course there is nothing new about it; since time immemorial all of the expression in music, without exception, results from its dissonances, whether they result from the pitches, the rhythms, the form, or some other aspect of the music. Consonance is another option, though it is of course boring if it goes on for too long. The endingof this movement is actually tonal, with the tonic left out; it would have been way too banal - I never considered it. The second movement is particularly involved with types of contrast, both in the moment-to-moment details of invention and speeds, and the references between phrases and sections. I am pleased to have written another strong and apparently unfunny Scherzo in the tradition of Beethoven. Actually there is humor in the wisps of pianissimo melody, like a curmudgeonly philosopher who allows you to overhear him whistling to himself, not very interestingly: Beethoven on one of his famous walks, ignoring you watching him. I love that guy, and I know all of his music. If I remember correctly the Barcarolle was the first movement in the Suite to be composed, it is a trifle I tossed off one day in the car (I never write at an instrument, the ideas are shaped then by one's instrumental skill, and the sound of whatever instrument one is at hand. That's why Copland and Stravinsky sound so pianistic). In fact I knew I had to write a Suite once I had written this little piece, since its idea, though good, is not suitable for the opening idea of a piece. It was clear this was going to be part of a collection of some kind. This boatsong contrasts two kinds of movement, a warm outgoing first idea that is a trifle too pleasant, and a startling contrasting idea. The agreeable wide-eyed naive gondolier does not realize what Casanova is doing in the back of his boat. With its immediate grip on all things serious, the Finale takes up where the Scherzo left off; it pursues an ultra-serious tone unapologetically and unrelentingly. It resembles a set of variations that gets distracted with more chores going on than usual; the theme does not appear in its pure form until the final few measures, like a skeleton key.

Click for each of the VIDEOS of the live performance:
I: Relaxed, but with motion
II: Droll, with humor; A little mysterious

III: Scherzo

IV: Barcarolle

V: Rugged, outspoken; with motion; on the string

You may like to hear the computer realizations as well:
I. Relaxed, but with motion - Download the Soundfile
II. Droll, with humor; A little mysterious - Download the Soundfile
III. Scherzo - Download the Soundfile
IV. Barcarolle - Download the Soundfile
V. Rugged, outspoken; with motion; on the string - Download the Soundfile

The score is twenty pages in length and is copied in the composer's fair hand. It is available in study score (8 1/2" by 11") for $8, and unreduced score (11" by 17" from a 9 1/2" by 12 1/2" master) for $12.

Download the Score

The premiere performance of this work was given in San Francisco by Thalia Moore at the concert VIEWS OF THE FESTIVAL on May 10th, 2009 at 4 PM at Old First Concerts in San Francisco.

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