Osanna for Lady O (1997, rev. 2007) Anthony Gilbert
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cello and piano
Lady Ottoline Morrell (1872-1938) was a great champion of British contemporary arts and letters in the early years of the 20th century. Among her close friends she counted Augustus John, Virginia Woolf, Bertrand Russell, Siegfried Sassoon, D. H. Lawrence, Aldous Huxley and a whole host of other luminaries. Her striking mode of attire and somewhat flamboyant personality led to some unflattering portrayals in the fiction of the time which is shameful, since her positive impact and her generosity were immeasurable. In an attempt to redress these wrongs, she has placed herself at the centre of a short opera I am planning. This Osanna (the title I give to pieces celebrating exciting personages) was in its original form a first offshoot of that long-term project.
Beginning with a hint of Rondo (of course), it soon reveals itself as a set of variations on aspects of the Rondo material. Initially mercurial, the increasingly intense and dramatic music that follows in some way reflects Lady Ottoline’s own trajectory across the consciousness of her time.
Commissioned by Ralph Kirshbaum for the 1998 Manchester International Cello Festival, Osanna for Lady O was first performed there in its original form by Alban Gerhardt, cello and Simon Parkin, piano, and was extensively rewritten ten years later as the material for the (now mothballed) opera began to take more solid shape.
- Alban Gerhardt and Simon Parkin, Manchester International Cello Festival, 3rd May 1998