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Cantos for Slava
(version 2: alternate movement order) (2007)

Mstislav Rostropovich ("Slava")

For cello and piano

First performance by The Fischer Duo: Norman Fischer, cello and Jeanne Fischer, piano in Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood Music Center on August 1, 2009
Duration: 12 minutes
Duration without Canto #1: 10 minutes

CD Available

This work is available on Odd Couple

Program Note

Slava fostered and fought for that outward-looking spirit that embraces openness, understanding and, above all, liberty. He believed that it was freedom of expression and a passionate devotion to the arts and to the universality of the idea of political liberty that allows the arts to flourish. Slava would not have wanted me to write solely a slow dirge or funeral song in his memory, as he was too full of life, creativity, new ideas, new sounds, energy, and passion.

Canto means any of the main divisions of a long poem. In CANTOS FOR SLAVA, four cantos are played without pause. They are of contrasting moods, although all based on related materials.

An underlying concern of this composition is that of plucked sounds. For instance three techniques are to be played with a great variety of color: the cello playing pizzicato, short pizzicato-like notes or chords played on the keyboard, and plucking of strings inside the piano.

In Canto #1, marked "Spacious, Elegant and Warm", there is one plucked piano string for each of Slava's 80 years of life; and no single note is plucked more than once. (i.e.: 8 notes are not ever plucked assuming an 88-key piano). Above this round resonance of collected tones, the cello sings a long, soulful line, at times almost as if chanting- as if the cello was telling a story. Canto #2 and #3 are characterized by playful and energized syncopated lines, the cello plays only pizzicato in #2 (never using the bow), and Canto #3 serves as a transition to Canto #4, which is marked "Elegant and Lyrical". It is a dreamy melodic trajectory and toward the very end, the score is marked: "Šas if floating away into the sunshineŠ"

CANTOS FOR SLAVA is dedicated with admiration and gratitude to Frances Richard, Matt Haimovitz and Geoffrey Burleson.

—Augusta Read Thomas

Jeanne Fischer of the Fischer Duo playing Cantos for Slava at Serenak at Tanglewood Music Center under the portrait of Koussevitzky.

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