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Kenneth Leighton

Publisher: Novello & Co

Cello Concerto (1956)
Novello & Co Ltd
Soloist(s) and Orchestra
Year Composed
35 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
Alternate Orchestration
Cello & Piano
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Programme Note
Kenneth Leighton Cello Concerto (1956)
Allegro con moto
Scherzo and trio
Lentissimo sostenuto

The work attempts to exploit the lyrical possibilities of the solo instrument by means of extended melodies based on key intervals. This is at once apparent at the start of the first movement. The ‘cello enters in the second bar with a tune of which the opening, rhythmic and intervallic shape becomes the central idea of the design. The orchestra takes this up in notes of shorter value, and leads to a more rhythmic and energetic section, in which the more athletic possibilities of the solo instrument are exploited. The excitement of this soon dies down, however, to make way for the second main subject, a slower tune of which the first four notes are thematically important and which is characterized by the leap of a major seventh. The extended development which follows contrasts and combines these two main subjects, culminating in an orchestral climax and a cadenza, part of which is accompanied. In the recapitulation that follows attention is claimed first by the rhythmic version of the first subject, but soon the tempo slackens into a final meditation on the “motto-theme”, ending quietly on a chord which prepares us for the tonality of the Scherzo.

This movement is gay and exuberant, and the soloist leads off with both the main themes. The brass also contribute a subsidiary idea shortly after the opening. The Trio (Moderato Dolce) beginning with an oboe solo is, by contrast, of a lyrical nature. After this the material of the Scherzo is elaborated and brought to a big climax by the full orchestra.

The emotional climax of the work (as in the composer’s Violin Concerto) comes in the slow final movement, which uses material related to that of the first movement. The opening leap of a minor ninth on the ‘cello, immediately contradicted by the drop of a whole tone, is an important thematic element. Oboe, flute, then ‘cello successively play the second subject, and there is an impassioned orchestral climax in the centre of the movement.
© Kenneth Leighton

  • Ensemble
    Royal Scottish National Orchestra
    Raphael Wallfisch, cello
    Bryden Thomson
  • Ensemble
    Royal Scottish National Orchestra
    Neil Mackie, tenor; Raphael Wallfisch, cello
    Bryden Thomson
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