GORDON: Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (after Thomas Mann’s Doktor Faustus) BIS 2330
Copenhagen Phil/Lan Shui/Moldrup, cello
A shared interest in Thomas Mann’s novel Doktor Faustus led to the composition of Geoffrey Gordon’s Cello Concerto. In the novel, a bargain is struck between the fictitious composer Adrian Leverkühn and the Devil in which the composer is granted 24 years of genius (as reflected in the score’s 24 minutes of duration). The work is a Copenhagen Philharmonic commission for Toke Møldrup. The musical language seems uncompromising, but moments of magical (magickal) mystery are inevitably part of this mystical journey; the third movement, “Dürer’s Magic Square,” is simply beautiful in its frozen stasis. The ominous ascending lines in the orchestra of the fourth movement are separated from the “Magic Square” movement by a brilliantly delivered cadenza, and if anything, the second cadenza, between movements 4 and 5, is more impressive still in its expressive scope; there is not a note wasted in either of them. If one sees the movements as representatives of emotional states of the protagonist on his journey from innocence to madness, this presents a harrowing journey, with the Devil’s fiddle appearing as the solo violin in the final movement. An Epilogue offers hints of solace and peace, but with harp washes unsettled by bass rumblings and uncomfortable woodwind and wha-wha brass gestures. This is a magnificent concerto; one hopes it will join the repertoire. In terms of scope, one might perhaps make comparisons with Dutilleux’s Cello Concerto, “Tout un monde lointain …”; but Gordon’s voice is all his own.
Five stars: This is a magnificent offering; Gordon’s music lingers in the memory, it resonates on within us.