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Haflidi Hallgrímsson

Publisher: Chester Music

Herma (1995)
commissioned by William Conway
Chester Music Ltd
Soloists and Orchestra
Year Composed
30 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
Alternate Orchestration
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Programme Note
My Concerto for Cello and String orchestra was completed early on New Year's Eve, 1994. It was commissioned by the former principal cellist of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, William Conway, with financial assistance from the Scottish Arts Council and the Binks Trust. The concerto received its world premiere on 15 March 1995 in the City Hall, Glasgow, with William Conway as the soloist and the string section of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Ivor Bolton. A second performance took place the following night, at the Queen's Hall, Edinburgh.

The concerto is in one continuous movement, clearly divided into three main sections: a first, moderately fast section, rhapsodic in character; a slow section with an accompanied cadenza in the middle; and finally an energetic fast section, which gradually gets faster, leading to the main climax of the work, near the very end of the concerto.

The solo part is a very long and endlessly varied narrative, which gradually embraces the whole "technical vocabulary" of the cello, available to the contemporary composer and soloist, but it is always at the service of a musical idea, and in "character" of the instrument - to show it off at its best.

From the very beginning, the "harmonic aura", so to speak, is established in the orchestra, with chords based on minor and major thirds, which are the real " building blocks" of the whole concerto, both for the soloist and orchestra. The orchestral "harmonic scenery", is very much at the service of the soloist, always seeking to support and highlight the poetic and dramatic content of the solo part, as well as providing a transparent and clear harmonic framework. The accompaniment is sometimes quite dense and at times polyphonic and multi-layered, but only towards the very end, is the orchestra allowed to dominate, in the final climax of the work.

There is no "story-line", or visual or literary references in this concerto, but inevitably the "inherited patterns" from all the cello music I have performed myself over the years, comes to the surface like fragments from a kind of "cellistic diary" kept somewhere in my mind.

© Haflidi Hallgrímsson

  • Ensemble
    Reykjavik Chamber Orchestra
    Ragnhild Heiland S¢rensen (soprano), Pórunn Osk Marinósdóttor (viola), Thorleif Thedéen (cello)
    Bernharour Wilkinson
  • Ensemble
    Scottish Chamber Orchestra
    Truls Mork
    John Storgårds
The concerto…is masterly… The concentration and focus of the work itself never slip. Shot through with episodes of nervy imagination, and dramatic climaxes, the concerto is nonetheless, at root, a deeply melodic, poetic and reflective work… It sings and it soars, becoming intense and impassioned, but always settles back into its restrained, mature eloquence.
Michael Tumelty, Glasgow Herald,01/03/1995
Hallgrímsson's Cello Concerto certainly deserved centre stage…the solo cellist slithers like a sorcerer changing and pointing the sounds around him, stabbing a veil of string sostenuto with a shooting harmonic, spreading a seductive calm as the orchestral texture twitches and jitters.'
Mary Miller, The Scotsman,01/01/0001
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