Winter Solstice Miniatures – Cello and Piano

In 2018, I was invited to offer a musical program on how music and nature intersect.  Having written several compositions that were inspired by our natural world, I had many pieces in my repertoire for the performance.  However, I was moved to compose a new piece for the project.  The concert was to be the following January, so in October I reached out to my good friend and cellist Heidi Mausbach to see if she might want to debut a new work for that performance.  To my delight, she agreed and I set out to write what would become these three miniatures.  They were debuted on January 25, 2019 at the “Keys of Winter” concert to open Off the Hook Arts’ WinterFest 2019.

Many thanks to Heidi Mausbach for her artistry and flexibility in working with a composer who is most certainly a non-cellist.  Special note of gratitude for her assistance in the cello notation of the sheet music. Scroll down to purchase songbook.  Streaming available across all digital music platforms beginning Oct 16. 

I. The Changing Light

In Colorado, there seems to be a moment each year where the light shifts, signaling the change of season.  This opening movement echoes that slow yet steady march through time with the cello pulling us from the lazy late summer through fall.  This opening statement by the cello is free and reflective; the piano responds with chords that hint at a change.  The instruments are in conversation here, but not in total agreement.  The piano will then set the pace as we inevitably are swept up toward the new, colder season.  The final chords in the keyboard are as if to say “It’s here”. 

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II. Wind

The piano will attempt to present the listener with some “wind” by brushing the hands across the strings with the damper pedal held down.  The first few chords, which have the strings pressed down with one palm, are played with the other hand.  This should create a “cracking” effect, as in the branches of the trees.  All of this is free of tempo and in the vein of how wind and colder weather often arrive unexpectedly.  The cello enters in sul ponticello – this technique presents the unmistakeable icy sound, confirming that we are moving into winter.  This movement requires some technical and creative exploration from each artist, and sounds more frenetic and unsettled, building to a great crescendo before dying away and leaving us with the stark and deep cold. 

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III.  The Long Sleep

The previous movement ends with the cello holding the high “icy” E, and then shifts attaca to a normal straight-toned note.  That sets the new key of this, the deepest and most reflective movement.   The piano sounds almost uncertain in the beginning, but then settles into an alternating pattern of augmented and resolved chords for the next several minutes as the cello presents the heartfelt and simple melody.  Note that the piano is asking “When will this winter be over – can we stretch to spring yet?”  The cello responds by continually returning to the tonic, keeping us grounded as if to say “No…not quite.”  It is a reminder for us to rest, have patience, and accept the changing of seasons in due time. 

Click cover to download mp3.  Streaming across all platforms starting Dec 11.