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Contrapunctus (2009)

Instrumentation: Cello and Piano
Duration: ca. 20'
Commissioned by the Whitworth Memorial Duo
Premiere Date: October 24, 2009, Baltimore, MD

Program Note

In 2008, my brother, then a student at the University of Tulsa, asked me to write a work for him and a friend of his, a cellist, who were forming a duo. Until that point, I had worked primarily with texted or programmatic works, and thus a more abstract work was both appealing and intimidating. (I did end up writing a brief poetic text to accompany the work, which was read at the premiere of the first movement by the son of Yevgeny Yevtushenko, whose When you are swimming alone I would later set.) The work is symmetrical, with outer movements serving as somewhat contemplative bookends, moving inward to echoing con fuoco movements, and with the heart of the work being a chaconne followed by a lengthy cadenza for both players which brings the music back “up to speed.” The primary motivic material is a descending sequence of fourths, which gradually emerges from the depths in the course of the first movement. This provides the generative material for the Chaconna Notturna, which takes the idea and breaks it apart, filtering it through a series of procedures that renders it increasingly unrecognizable. From this point, the work proceeds attacca through the remaining movements, reaching a peak of intensity in the penultimate movement before unfolding and coming to rest in the final Quodlibet.

The work is dedicated to my brother, Benjamin, who premiered it, along with cellist Jean-Paul Barjon, in Baltimore, Maryland on October 24, 2009.

— Douglas Buchanan




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