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Work of the Week – Chaya Czernowin: Guardian

Chaya Czernowin’s inspiration for her new cello concerto, Guardian, grew from her in depth research of the human experience of time. The work is dedicated to cellist Séverine Ballon who along with the SWR-Sinfonieorchester and Pablo Rus Broseta, will give its world premiere at the closing concert of the 2017 Donaueschingen Festival on 22 October.

In our dreams, the brain creates its own worlds using fragments from our waking reality combined with figments of our imagination. In the same way, Czernowin creates works using fragments from the natural world expressed through her own creative voice. Guardian creates a gloomy alternative reality, in which time is elongated and compressed like an accordion.

Chaya Czernowin – Guardian: exploring the elastic quality of time

On the surface, Czernowin seems to adhere to traditional concerto form: a distinct solo line is supported by an orchestral accompaniment, interspersed with orchestral tuttis and a final cadenza.  But if we look more closely, the roles are anything but traditional.

Guardian is a floating exchange between the merging and parting of two sound bodies.  In one instance, the cello emerges from the orchestra but increasingly pulls away, getting louder and louder. At times the orchestra acts as a single cello.  The wind instruments for example are instructed to create breathy tones instead of distinct clear notes in order to resemble the bow being pulled on a string. The resulting dense clusters, played at pianissimo, create the illusion of a unison sound.

Two speakers amplify the solo cello, which ranges in sound from plaintive cantabiles to roaring like a wild animal. In the orchestra, extended techniques add shade and colour to Czernowin’s alternative world.

The field of Open Form in algorithmic visual computer work enables a multi-dimensional development of objects […], at any moment one or the other parameters of the shape takes over, impacting the overall form. This is the way in which this concerto thinks. – Chaya Czernowin

Guardian will be performed again at the rainy days festival in Luxembourg on 17 November with Roland Kluttig conducting the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg with Séverine Ballon.