Gwyneth Walker

North Country Concerto

for Cello and Orchestra (1995)
(piano reduction of mvts. 1-4 available)

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View/download a perusal PDF file of the full score of this orchestral work.

View/download a PDF file of selected sample pages from the solo cello part of this work.

Commissioned by cellist Frances Rowell and the Pennsylvania Sinfonia Orchestra.

"Early in the Morning at the Break of Day" refers to the energy one often has during the first part of the day. The opening rhythm of repeated 8th-notes in the orchestra (accompaniment) speaks the words of the title. The harmonies are open and sparse, perhaps with a morning freshness. The cello is spirited, with glissandi and rapid bowings of repeated notes.

"A Stillness" focuses on short patterns, which vary slightly and grow in intensity. The music unfolds slowly. Perhaps one might feel that one is in the forest, with the stillness of trees balanced against gentle calls of birds. The cello might be heard as the subjective voice responding to the sounds of the forest.

The third movement is influenced by rough-hewn folk music. The patterns of bowing across the strings suggest a crossing, or "arcing" motion rising at the end into an image of "An Arc in the Sky."

The fourth movement is based on the familiar "Riddle Song" ["I gave my love a cherry that had no stone..I gave my love a baby with no cryin'."] The opening cello solo serves as a bridge between movements III and IV. Then, after an introduction in the orchestra (accompaniment), the cello enters with the song-theme. The original melody is never fully presented. Rather, the image of "cryin'" engenders the rest of the movement. One might hear sighing motives throughout. Blues harmonies (a mixture of major and minor sonorities) and non-tonal excursions surround the simple tune.

If the fourth movement is nostalgic, the final "Here and Now!" brings one back to the twentieth century quickly. This is rhythmic energetic music based more on the American rock tradition than folk music. The cello has occasion to explore the various sound possibilities of the instrument. The percussion section is featured in this short, burst-of-energy culmination movement.

Notes by the composer