Double Concerto for Cello and Harp (premiere)

Denis Gougeon

1951 –

A long tradition of double and triple concertos stretches from the baroque era to our own. Some are for instruments of the same family, others not. Denis Gougeon’s Double Concerto for Cello and Harp is unusual in that it is composed for two rarely paired instruments, each with its own, very recognizable palette of colours. Writing for instruments with such strong personalities brings with it a number of challenges, as the composer explains:

“It requires a search for balance, not only between the two solo instruments but also with the entire orchestra. A balance in the ‘speaking time,’ in the formal proportions, nuances, expressive characters and the contrasts. For me, to compose is to offer up topics of conversation (the themes) and to prompt dialogue. To the harp, I’ve given the harmonic and melodic work. For the cello, it’s an essentially melodic writing that exploits the instrument’s entire wide range. From the first notes, like the raising of a sound curtain, the two ‘travellers’ are sucked into the orchestra’s colourful whirlwind. They then move forward, from tableau to tableau, in a conversation that’s often lively but sometimes marked by hesitation or a deep inwardness. While dialoguing with them, the orchestra also envelops them, unveils contrasted atmospheres and opens doors to other sound worlds. This music, like a continuum, never looks back except at the very end, which recalls the point from where our two protagonists began the voyage.”

The work consists of a single movement and is dedicated to harpist Valérie Milot and cellist Stéphane Tétreault.

© 2022 Florence Leyssieux
Translation by Craig Schweickert