Sonata for Solo Violoncello by George Crumb
(notes provided by Diana
Completed in Berlin in October
of 1955, the Cello Sonata dates from Crumb’s student days and reflects well-established
traditions of composition for solo cello. It was premiered by cellist, Camilla
Doppmann on March 15th, 1957 in Ann Arbor, MI. The work is described
by biographer, David Cope, as being cast in a Bartókian classic-romantic
style with no contemporary techniques of the time. Crumb actually wanted
to remove the work from circulation, but finally published it in 1958.
The basic material from which the Fantasia is constructed is contained in
the first two phrases. The opening chord consists of a minor sixth
combined with a perfect fifth. This interval combination appears throughout
the movement as a harmonic reference or in various transformations.
The first three notes of the second phrase (F-D-C#) form a minor third/minor
second interval combination, the basis of much of the melodic material in
The second movement is a theme and three variations with a coda. The theme
is a delicate sicilienne that returns in the coda as if in the distance . The
melodic material centers around D with quasi tonic - dominant movement .
The third movement is made up of stacked minor triads and is rather
violent at times starting with the dramatic opening Largo. The movement
exits in the opposite way that it begins and has a contrasting, almost lyrical,
middle section making a palindrome-like structure.