Stephen Hartke

DA PACEM (2018) Concerto for ‘Cello and Orchestra Commissioned by Oberlin College and Conservatory; the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra; the Aspen Music Festival, Robert Spano, Music Director; and American Composers Orchestra Duration: 22 minutes Instrumentation 2 Flutes (1st doubles Piccolo 2, 2nd doubles Piccolo 1 and Alto Flute), Oboe, Oboe d’amore, 2 Clarinets in B-flat (2nd doubles Bass Clarinet), 2 Bassoons (2nd doubles Contrabassoon), 2 Horns, 2 Trumpets, 1 Percussionist (Crotales, Marimba, Tubular Bells, 4 Timpani, Snare Drum, Guiro, 2 Suspended Cymbals, Sandblocks), Strings (min. 5/5/4/4/2 players) I. Da Pacem (Fantasia) II. In diebus nostris (Scherzo) III. Quis pugnat pro nobis? (Introduction, Elegy, and Envoi) My cello concerto, Da Pacem, takes its title from a Latin hymn that begins “Grant peace in our day.”  It is a reflection on these unsettled and unsettling times.  As the work’s protagonist, the solo cellist journeys through a considerable variety of musical landscapes. The first movement is in the tradition of a Renaissance instrumental fantasia, in that it is partially built upon plainchant, both the Da pacem hymn and the chant fragment, In nomine, which formed the basis of a whole genre of English instrumental pieces from the Renaissance through the time of Purcell. The scherzo, In diebus nostris (“in our day”), bears the tempo marking “nervous, haunted.”  Here the soloist sometimes instigates, sometimes reacts, and sometimes willfully ignores the material swirling about.  Likewise, some of the orchestral response is at one moment flighty, in the next aggressive, and even, toward the middle of the movement, engaging in a kind of misdirection. The title of the last movement, Quis pugnat pro nobis? (“who fights for us?”), is not quite a quote from the Da pacem hymn, but it’s still a good question.  In first sketching the piece, I had decided to build the central portion of the movement on “Ain’t you got a right to the tree of life?”, which I first heard as a protest song in the late 60s.  While I was working on the close of this section, the news came about the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, turning what had begun as an abstract musical elegy into a very real one. The movement closes with an envoi built upon one further quotation, this time from the Credo of the Da Pacem Mass once thought to be by Josquin Des Pres but now attributed to his younger contemporary, Noel de Bauldweyn.  It is a brief lattice-work of counterpoint using a motif that is clearly in ⅞, which thus rhythmically echoes some other turns of phrase heard earlier in the cello.  Following this, the work concludes with a quiet amen.  
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