By David Sanford | For Solo Cello and Orchestra | 26′
Title: Scherzo Grosso
Composer: David Sanford
Year Composed: 2005/2006
Instrumentation: For Solo Cello and Orchestra
Originally written for solo cello and big band.
Format: Transposed Score
Page Size: Tabloid (11″x17″)
Catalog Number: OM0304
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From the composer:
The original version of Scherzo Grosso was composed in 2005 for solo cellist Matt Haimovitz and big band (5 saxophones, 5 trumpets, 5 trombones, piano, electric guitar, bass and drum set) as part of the cellist’s “Buck the Concerto” series of cello concerti with unconventional ensembles. It was premiered by Haimovitz and the Pittsburgh Collective in May of 2005 at the Knitting Factory in Manhattan and recorded for Oxingale Records, who released it on the disc Live at the Knitting Factory in January of 2007. Commissioning funds were provided in part by the Serge Koussevitzky Foundation in the Library of Congress, and the work is dedicated to the memory of Serge and Natalie Koussevitzky. The orchestral version was completed in 2006 for an ensemble of 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 Bb clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, 4 horns in F, 3 Bb trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, 4 percussion (timpani, vibraphone, glockenspiel, snare drum, 3 tom-toms, bass drum, suspended cymbals, crash cymbals, triangle, tam-tam), and full strings.
While the influences in the piece are numerous, the main underlying thread is the memory of Ed Nelson (1962-2004), a trumpet player with the Pittsburgh Collective and a close friend of several members of the band. A fundamental trait of Nelson’s character was his widely divergent and unpredictable nature; a possible musical genius who received straight A’s in college, dropped out only a few credits short of his degree, and often withdrew from public performance for long stretches at a time.
While a simple reading of the concerto’s pairing might suggest that the cello represents the more “sacred” and the big band (orchestra) the “profane”, in actuality each explores aspects of both idioms, and the ground in between. The big band often veered closer to “European” than “jazz”, breaking down into chamber groups at certain points. At the same time, the cello often acts as a jazz or rock soloist (movements I and IV), or as part of a rhythm section as Deidre Murray and Abdul Wadud have with Henry Threadgill’s groups, or Hank Roberts with Tim Berne, among others. Those familiar with Mr. Haimovitz’s work won’t be surprised to hear him backed by drums, playing saxophone lines with the woodwind section, or imitating electric guitar. Although the orchestral version is fully notated, there are improvised trumpet solos in the second and fourth movements of the big band original which are replaced by a notated trumpet solo in the 2nd movement (several of the ideas taken from Dave Ballou’s 2005 performance with the Pittsburgh Collective), and a written flute/woodwind soli in the fourth.
Commission/Dedication: To the Serge and Natalie Koussevitzky Music Foundation in the Library of Congress, and deidcated to the memory of Serge and Natalie Koussekitzky. Commissoned by Matt Haimovitz and the Pittsburgh Collective.
Premiere: Original version for solo cello and big band first performed May 29, 2005 at the Knitting Factory in New York City by Matt Haimovitz and The Pittsburgh Collective, conducted by David Sanford. Version for solo cello and orchestra first performed May 11, 2007 in Berkeley, CA by Matt Haimovitz and the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Kent Nagano.
Recording: The big-band version of this work is recorded on the Oxingale Records‘ albums Vinylcello and Live at the Knitting Factory and on PENTATONE Oxingale Series‘ Cello JAZZ.