Rapprochement Anthony Gilbert
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cello and piano
Superficially, at the outset of this little eight-minute quasi-drama, the two players’ rôles could hardly be more different. The cello consistently pursues a shapely line controlled by a long, four-cycle isorhythm, and barely, if at all, departs from its basic, spacious contour. The piano, on the other hand, seems volatile, mercurial, constantly changing from wild lines to blocks of chords and gestures, seemingly intent first simply on commenting on, then on disrupting the cello’s flow at every opportunity. It is definitely not an accompaniment, or even a companion-part, though in its structure we find a consistency paralleling that of the cello. The linear rushes are simply re-orderings of a brief line, and the chords are all part of a 64-chord vocabulary, no chord reappearing in a given cycle until all the remaining 63 have been heard. And this is their point of contact. Each piano chord relates to, and colours, a given moment in the cello’s four long and increasingly expressive melodic cycles. In other words, whether they like it or not, these chords do provide the harmonic structure and even an emotional stimulus, despite their proponent’s consistently aggressive tone, which only slightly relaxes towards the end. On the other hand, the cello’s tone, originally conciliatory if somewhat patronising, does not remain consistent. It soon turns indignantly assertive, only briefly returning to reasonableness after a moment of quiet before the central storm. So inevitably, the overall tension-level steadily mounts to the fierce climax-point two thirds of the way through Cycle 3, at the ‘golden section’ of the whole. After this, a subtle movement towards reconciliation begins. The cello, its tone now progressively more plaintive, becomes slightly more flexible rhythmically, and the piano hints at responsiveness in its gestural shapes. Each part learns a little from the other. By the end, though it would perhaps be too optimistic to have expected a complete resolution, there certainly has been a rapprochement. Maybe this is all simply a reflection on what we see around us in the real world.
Rapprochement was commissioned by the York Late Music Series for Simon Turner and Richard Casey with funds provided by the Britten-Pears Trust. They gave its first performance at York's Unitarian Church in March 2012.