Composer Giovanni Sollima reflects on his Antidotum Tarantulae XXI, Concerto for Two Cellos and Orchestra, a CSO co-commission that will receive its world premiere Jan. 30.

Writing music while traveling has its pros and cons: on one hand, new places, spaces, faces, smells, cultures, languages, influence the writing, but it doesn’t always work. On the other hand, the traveling dangerously divides the different phases of composition, and this happens to me more and more often.

In the case of this piece, the time between the sketch of a fragment and the final draft of the score, annotating and archiving a number of sketches, without order, while playing some Haydn or Schumann cello concerto, made a bit of chaos for a few months, but for a strange reason, I felt that I wanted to follow this route without a clear destination, almost improvising.

The result is a mix of ritual, a sort of strange story of an Italy (especially south, perhaps more complex because layered by languages and cultures, Balkans included) going back to Baroque, Renaissance, Middle Ages, etc., and then dance — tarantism (a couple of months studying the folk music of the Salento region in Apulia has left an indelible mark); archaic-instrumental techniques or far-from-West mixed with bass lines like early Baroque “division viol” music. … Short quotes from Matteo da Perugia; Nicola Vicentino (vertiginous chromaticism, but also nostalgic singing); the Jesuit Athanasius Kircher, which “meets” the hysterical phenomenon of tarantism; Leonardo da Vinci (a passion that I have had since childhood), specifically “decod- ing” one of his musical rebus, a sort of love sonnet as determined by the sequence of musical notes: re, mi, fa, sol, re, mi, re, sol, la, mi, fa, sol, sol, re, mi, fa, re, mi, fa, sol, la, mi (“amore solo mi fa remirare, sola mi fa sollicita, sola mi fa sperare, amore mi fa sollazzare” something like: “Only love makes me remember, it alone fires me up, it makes me hope, love amuses me,” from which I draw a thematic line present from the beginning of the work as a unifying element and used for a set of variations for the last movement. The two cellos and the orchestra dialogue almost always in symbiosis, but are often inciting each other.

Giovanni Sollima

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