Geoffrey Gordon: The Doktor Faustus Cello Concerto
This is an excerpt from composer Geoffrey Gordon's Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, commissioned by the Copenhagen Philharmonic for their principle cellist, Toke Møldrup, and premiered on 31 January 2014, at the Royal Danish Academy of Music, with guest conductor, Rory Macdonald.
The new work began as a conversation between Gordon and Møldrup. Both artists realized they shared an interest in Thomas Mann’s stunning 1943 novel, Doktor Faustus (Doktor Faustus. Das Leben des deutschen Tonsetzers Adrian Leverkühn, erzählt von einem Freunde). This startling retelling of the Faust legend, set in the context of the first part of the 20th century (and reflecting the turmoil in Germany during that time), is shot through with musical references, from Bach and Beethoven to Schoenberg (not to mention literary references from Shakespeare to Dante, Blake, and Verlaine)—a kind of Apollonian (reason, progress) and Dionysian (passion, tragedy, fate) struggle for the soul of the (fictitious) composer Adrian Leverkühn, as told by his friend, Serenus Zeitblom. The twenty-four years of genius granted the composer through a Faustian bargain with a (real or imagined) devil are directly reflected in the 24 minutes of Mr. Gordon’s score.
The rich narrative and deeply textured allusive and symbolic elements of the Mann novel provide the inspiration for this work, but this is not intended as a literal, blow by blow retelling of the story. Rather, the spirit of the novel, and the general arc of the storyline—from innocence to madness—provide the creative blueprint. Organized into a Prologue and Five Episodes, the concerto traces Leverkühn’s journey in broad (and specific) terms, with the cello both embodying and (occasionally) commenting on the proceedings.
This excerpt presents the final 8:30 of the work, from the second cadenza through to the powerful and yet resigned conclusion.