soar was written in response to a long-held desire to write a work that would capitalise on Christian Wojtowicz’s cello sound, style and technique. Most of all I sought to write for his ability to translucently and constantly evolve new and unique colorations and inflections of expressive, carefully molded musical line.
With this as a background, I set out to write a cello and piano work that I could not help thinking of as a short score for a cello concerto. This led to thinking of the work as a deeply hybridised, even consciously contradictory amalgam of sources: chamber music for cello and piano, yet big and dramatic music suited to a concerto; a chromatic, ‘roving’ harmonic structure that is yet rooted in firm centres around E; a thorny, expressive language that is florid and exhibitionist yet one that is also lyrical, passionate and intimately, inwardly emotional.
From this powerful set of contradictory impulses the work took shape. Over the initial few measures the piano unfolds a bass line that captures the harmonic ‘contradictions’ of the work: a firm centre of E, extended and elaborated through progression to the minor third above via progressive chromatic unfolding. Insistent accented sixths articulate implicit rhythms that are overtly taken up as the work unfolds. The cello enters boldly and dramatically: unfolding triplet sixteenths that form an important basis for the fast sections of the work. These three fast sections are separated by two slow, expressive and exposed sections of related thematic character thus forming the loosely knit five-part ‘rondo’ type structure of the work.
The style of argument used in elaborating materials in soar is very distinctly similar to that of all of my recent works: a reliance on traditional motivic and thematic development of ideas, balanced with an approach to repetition of ideas that allows the musician and audience to re-engage with the traditionally formative elements of music.
But beyond all of this, soar is about the human spirit and our lifelong dance with life’s challenges and even demons. From its searching and worried opening measures to the bright climactic final moments of the piece the work seems to constantly betray its concerto-like drama of contrasts. The work seeks to capture some of the breath and texture of life: struggle and triumph, defeat and redemption, nobility and loss.
The orchestrated version of this work was completed in November, 2006 and is dedicated with much affection to the soloist, Christian Wojtowicz and conductor Tze Law Chan.