ELEGY

for two cellos and piano

Written: (2006-07/08)
Duration: 10'
Instrumentation: two cellos and piano
Original Elegy for two bassoons and piano commissioned by Charles McCracken and Gordon Harris through American Composers Forum
PremiereBargeMusic, Fulton Ferry, Brooklyn, NY, USA, September 1-4, 2011.
PublisherBill Holab Music

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PROGRAM NOTE
 (Short Version — For Programs)

After hearing my music, and in particular, my Sonata for Bassoon and Piano, bassoonist Charles McCracken asked me to write the original version of this work, Elegy for two bassoons and piano, in memory of his father, Charles P. McCracken, a well-known and highly-regarded cellist in the New York musical community. His only request was that I quote a work that his father loved to play, one of the cello suites by J.S. Bach. I also love Bach’s music, so this was an easy request. I quote Bach’s Fifth Cello Suite, one of his father’s favorite pieces, and also Bach’s Third Cello Suite, a work that Charles Jr. likes, creating a sort of father and son pairing of references. Although Charles described his father as gregarious, fun loving and larger than life, this work is perhaps more earnest than humorous, but with a sense of playfulness in the way I manipulate the musical materials. Since this piece references Bach’s cello suites and Charles Sr. was a cellist (and played principal with the New York Metropolitan Orchestra for two seasons), and the cello and bassoon have very similar ranges, I made this transcription for two cellos and piano, a version I think Charles Sr. would have appreciated.

The original Elegy was commissioned by Charles McCracken and Gordon Harris through the American Composers Forum and is written in memory of Charles P. McCracken.

PROGRAM NOTE
 (Long Version)

After hearing my music, and in particular, my Sonata for Bassoon and Piano, bassoonist Charles McCracken asked me to write Elegy for two bassoons and piano in memory of his father, Charles P. McCracken, a well-known and highly-regarded cellist in the New York musical community. Since this piece references Bach’s cello suites and Charles Sr. was a cellist (and played principal with the New York Metropolitan Orchestra for two seasons), and the cello and bassoon have very similar ranges, I made this transcription for two cellos and piano, a version I think Charles Sr. would have appreciated.

His only request was that I quote a work that his father loved to play, one of the cello suites by J.S. Bach. I also love Bach’s music, so this was an easy request. I quote Bach’s Fifth Cello Suite, one of his father’s favorite pieces, and also Bach’s Third Cello Suite, a work that Charles Jr. likes, creating a sort of father and son pairing of references. Charles and l also batted around the idea of incorporating a Bach chorale, but ultimately, this seemed unnecessary. Instead, I imbue a few sections with Baroque-sounding, choral-like textures. Although Charles describes his father as having been gregarious, fun loving and larger than life, this work is perhaps more earnest than humorous, but with a sense of playfulness in the way I manipulate the musical materials.

Abstractly, Elegy is also about the loss of innocence from childhood to adulthood, and reflects on how many of us lose our sense of child-like curiosity and playfulness once we become adults. In this sense, I think this work is definitely for Charles Sr., as it seems that he had these traits all along.

While writing, I also thought of my father, sculptor Tony Paterson. He likes my Sonata for Bassoon and Piano very much, and in particular, the Edison’s Ears movement, so much so that he dedicated one of his sculptures to me and titled it Edison’s Ears. Indirectly, I also dedicate this work to my father, who also loves the music of J.S. Bach, and who I love very much.

I also thought of something my father once said, that it comforts him to know that life will go on after he’s gone, and this was pivotal, particularly with how I incorporate Bach’s music. Each quote starts out somewhat literally, but then continues on in the same style, but with different notes from Bach’s original versions.

Additionally, there is a third quote toward the end from Bach’s Prelude No. 1 in C Major from the The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II. This is one of three works of J.S. Bach—and the most works by any composer or musician—that were included on the Golden Record, a disc that was included on both NASA Voyager Spacecrafts 1 and 2 launched in 1977. I had a surrealistic vision of Bach’s music floating through space, as if the Voyager is singing to itself and to the cosmos, trying to keep itself company as it travels across the vastness of our galaxy. Incidentally, one of my favorite memories of childhood was of my father reading to me from pictures books and magazines that showed these wonderful spacecrafts, a tradition that I look forward to as a father.

The Voyager spacecrafts are fueled by a plutonium fuel source. Due to radiation decay, this fuel will die out ca. 2020 and cause the Voyager spacecrafts to cease operations. I re-wrote the final Bach quote to sound like the music is also melting and decaying as the plutonium decays. In incorporating this decaying quote, I was indirectly inspired one of my favorite pieces, George Crumb’sMakrokosmos III, Music for a Summer Evening.

The original Elegy was commissioned by Charles McCracken and Gordon Harris through the American Composers Forum and is written in memory of Charles P. McCracken.

 

...appealing new pieces used the classical canon as raw material for personable recombination: Robert Paterson’s Elegy, played by Dave Eggar and Arash Amini, wistfully adapted material by Bach...
— Steve Smith, The New York Times
Robert Paterson’s Elegy, played by [Dave] Eggar and Arash Amini, another cellist, brought out a more pensive side, with its numerous Bach quotations.
— The Strad
...Paterson’s musical imagination at its most fertile.
— Lynn René Bayley, Art Music Lounge