Clamavi (1980) for solo cello, like many of Arne Nordheim's works, has a literary basis. In this case the source of inspiration is Psalm 141. The Psalm begins with these words:
"Domine clamavi ad te festina mihi
exaudi vocem meam clamantis ad te"
Lord, I cry unto thee,
make haste unto me!
Give ear unto my voice,
when I cry unto thee.
CLAMAVI - a cry and a lament for cello solo. This is one of three interrelated cello pieces from the early 1980s. The other being TENEBRAE, a single-movement cello concerto, and WIRKLICHER WALD a kind of concerto for soprano, cello solo, mixed choir and orchestra. "I always knew that these pieces were linked together" says Nordheim. "The commission for TENEBRAE came first but I wrote CLAMAVI two years earlier as a test or a sketch". The piece is a kind of preliminary study, directly inspired by David Psalm 141: "Domine, clamavi ad te" "Lord, I cry unto thee". The peice starts as apowerful recitation and continues as an 'ordinary piece' for cello solo with a significant part where the cellist should play as if he is freely inprovising, but the written notes should be followed.
CLAMAVI could be described as a Psalm without words, in which the chanting elements is very essential. The cello should sing as if the instrument is human. The rich timbre and expression is to be achieved by means of exceptional technical skill and genuine sensitivity, being familiar with the content of the psalm. CLAMAVI was performed for the first time by the Norwegian cellist Aage Kvalbein in Mo i Rana, 12. January 1981.