NEW MUSIC TUESDAY | Mark Adamo’s New Cello Concerto “Last Year”


“Virtuoso and infinitely curious cellist Jeffrey Zeigler and I have been looking for an opportunity to work together for years; but between my work in opera and his as principal cellist for quartets like the Kronos, time, alas, no ‘never seemed right, ” Marc Adamo told The Violin Channel. “And then it was: four orchestras came on board for the commission, and the dates – in New York, San Francisco, Houston, and Manitoba – were set.

Part of the inspiration for “Last Year” came when Adamo listened to a recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, while simultaneously hearing the news of a terrible flood in Houston. He thought that if Vivaldi were alive today and knew what we know now, it would seem almost impossible to compose these scores. Adamo wondered, however, “If Vivaldi was asked to do this, what could he do?”

Adamo’s compositional approach is always: “first imagine the piece, and the music will follow”.

“It started with the aforementioned idea; continued with many free associative sketches in a journal – like “What should this room do?” What are its highest and lowest emotional points, and how do they sound? This was then developed into a long, multi-colored sketch, in which every minute of the play’s duration, every change of register and technique, every thematic idea and every instrumental color was traced like an EKG; and only then did it evolve into the real pitches and rhythms that the musicians would play and the audience would hear.

“By filtering what so many of us feel about the world through the twin screens of Vivaldi and Dies Irae, I hope this piece allows us to experience more, and therefore work with, the emotions that we, certainly I, can find powerful to the point of immobilizing.

For inspiration, Adamo recorded Emily Dickinson’s poem on his computer screen:

“Tell the whole truth but tell it sideways
Success in the circuit lies
Too bright for our cripple Delight
The superb surprise of the truth “


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