Tema Sacher

(1976)

by Benjamin Britten

Description
Solo cello
Duration
1
Genres
Cello
Other Contributors
Edited by Mstislav Rostropovich
Commission
Written for Paul Sacher's 70th Birthday
First Performance
2.5.76, Tonhalle, Zurich: Mstislav Rostropovich
Availability

Score 0-571-51107-4 on sale

Programme Notes
Benjamin Britten Tema….SACHER For a seventieth birthday tribute to the distinguished Swiss conductor, Paul Sacher, Mstislav Rostropovich hit on the idea of inviting twelve of Sacher’s composer friends* to collaborate in writing a set of variations based on his name. Rostropovich himself played the complete set (all for solo cello except for Boulez’s contribution, which also needed six tutti cellists) at Sacher’s birthday concert in the Tonhalle, Zurich, on 2 May 1976. The young Paul Sacher had founded the Chamber Orchestra of Basle in 1926, having realised that both eighteenth-century and much contemporary music needed a ‘new’ kind or orchestra, rather than the full symphonic sound. From then on he commissioned or conducted wokrs by many of the most important composers of this century: among them Bartók, Britten, Henze, Hindemith, Honegger, Martin, Strauss, Stravinksy. It is a remarkable list, and manuscripts of these and many other works (outstandingly, of course, his recent acquisition of the vast Stravinsky collection) are preserved in the Paul Sacher Foundation in Basle. Sacher had conducted the premiere of Britten’s Cantata Academica at Basle University in July 1960 – and there was a memorable concert given by him in the Jubilee Hall at the 1956 Aldeburgh Festival. When approached by Rostropovich with his plan at the beginning of 1976, Benjamin Britten was already seriously ill, but he agreed to write the theme itself rather than a variation. The use of note names as letters of the alphabet (as a kind of cypher) to spell out a name or message is an old musical trick, dating back to at least medieval times. So in this case the notes used in Britten’s Tema (and, of course, also in every one of the ten variations) are these: E flat (‘Es’ in German) – A – C – B natural (H in German) – E – D. This last, called ‘Re’ in French, supplies the final letter of the name SACHER. R.S. *The twelve were Conrad Beck, Luciano Berio, Pierre Boulez, Benjamin Britten, Henri Dutilleux, Wolfgang Fortner, Alberto Ginastera, Cristobal Halffter, Hans Werner Henze, Heinz Holliger, Klaus Huber, Witold Lutoslawski. THIS IS FOR INFORMATION ONLY. NOT TO BE USED IN CONCERT PROGRAMMES

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