Originally, with the fifteen-minute frame in mind, I thought to compose a piece for cello and orchestra in a single movement, something like my similarly proportioned In Concordiam for violin and orchestra. But the music seemed to take its own shape: the four sections I had outlined began to break apart, and the concept grew from a single movement to four, with the second and third directly connected. Also, the concerto's duration expanded to approximately 30 minutes.
The first movement serves as an exposition of three themes, all three of which are introduced by the cello. The cello alone opens the concerto with an angular theme that embraces major, minor, and chromatic elements at once; it is the 'mother theme' for the two that follow. After a sudden outburst of sound in the brass and woodwinds, broken by sweeping scales in the strings, the orchestra settles down to drone-like underpinnings for the second theme, a quieter one in minor, characterized by small-spaced intervals. It is interrupted by the appearance of the third theme, which is also quiet bur has a major-key character and is more triadic and spread-out. The third theme is then taken up by the flutes, and finally by the horns and the entire orchestra, until the second theme suddenly returns in the cello to complete the movement.
The second movement is basically a scherzo development of the first, very fast, with a slower middle section. The third movement, which follows without pause, is the second development of the opening movement, in ABA form. It is in moderate tempo, more lyrical in character, building to a cadenza which is followed by a quiet close on the movement's opening material.
The final movement is in the nature of a continuation of the second, as if the second movement had been merely interrupted by the third. For about the first two-thirds, this movement is a modified rondo; then a very brief recapitulation reverts to the character of the first movement, whose themes are brought together before the work ends in a brief, fast finale.
-- Stephen Albert