Tekton | Cello Concerto

Tekton | Cello Concerto



Instrumentation: cello/strings

Duration: 25 Minutes, Three Movements

Commissioned By: Alan Toda-Ambaras and the Eureka Ensemble

Program Notes: Tekton is the result of a deep affection and admiration for both the cello and Alan Toda-Ambaras. I almost chose to begin musical study at age 8 on the cello rather than on the violin, and have since watched the cello world — as a violinist — with a mixture of envy, obsession, and love. To put it on paper: cello is my favorite instrument. During my two years of graduate school at the New England Conservatory, I programmed many of my pieces on concerts, starting with my cello and piano serenade Fantasia Olora; the cello part performed by Alan. I unabashedly asked him to play for me again and again—the immense earnestness with which he plays is so attractive—he emotionally flung himself and the beauty of his playing into the emotions of my music, and gave me goosebumps with every performance... so when he said to me over iced coffees shortly before I graduated “Steph... I want to do a concerto” I couldn’t have been happier.

I believe that a concerto should be the amalgamation of the history and essence of both the instrument and the commissioner/premiere performer, so to begin the process I set up a nice long phone call with Alan to discuss his life in much more depth than we’d ever gotten to over iced coffees after rehearsals. Along with learning favorite colors and authors, we talked about his Japanese heritage, and I discovered that he had an affinity for Italian Modernist architecture. Some research on that last subject yielded drawings that provided structural ideas for the movements—to be named in Japanese—and it was actually a contemporary architect, Zaha Hadid, whose Nuragic Museum in Scardinia Italy provided the structural impetus for the first movement of the piece. I literally sketched the museum onto a very large piece of orchestral manuscript paper and thus derived the idea for the opening; a cloud-like brass chorale.

The piece, named Tekton, the Greek word for architecture, makes use of the ideas of clouds, ice, and vapor, showcasing Alan and the cello as it explores these different states of water. Kumo, Aiku, Jōki are the Japanese translations of these water states, and in the first movement you will hear a large, slow-moving brass chord: like a golden cloud moving across the skyscape of the orchestra. A spritely second theme speaks of the aftermath of storm clouds and the passage of time. The second movement, Aiku, is indeed icy, presenting an emotional but ultimately chilled landscape devoid of all aside from ice and echoes. At times, a flock of birds can be heard flying somewhere high overhead. Jōki is spunky, riotous; an almost-jig for the orchestra and soloist. Like water vapor, this movement’s energetic momentum and rapid tempo are integral to its identity.

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