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Krzysztof Penderecki  (Poland, b.1935)
Agnus Dei from Polish Requiem *

Olga Hans  (Poland, b.1971)
Piesni sloneczne (Songs of the Sun) *

Arvo Part  (Estonia, b.1935)
O Antiphonen **
17 December: O Wisdom
18 December: O Lord
19 December: O Root of Jesse
20 December: O Key of David
21 December: O Rising Sun
22 December: O King of the Nations
23 December: O Emmanuel

Terry Riley  (USA, b.1935)
ArchAngels  *  
The Queen of Dark Waters
Protection Vigil

Cristobal Halffter  (Spain, b.1930)
Fandango **

* US Premiere
**New York Premiere

Program notes:

KRZYSZTOF PENDERECKI's Polish Requiem, for four solo voices, mixed choir, and symphony orchestra, was, like most of his large compositions, written in stages over several years (1980 - 1984 - 1993). Dedicated to his country's suffering, the piece makes references to the Polish tragedies of the previous decade. Written under the difficult period of Martial Law, the Requiem was intended to "cheer people's hearts," as the composer himself put it. "Without the overall political situation, without Solidarity," he explains, "I would not have written the Requiem, even though I had long been interested in the subject. When composing the Requiem, I wanted to take a specific position, to say which side had my support." Dedications of two kinds accompany the Requiem's different parts: those that commemorate important events in the country's history and those that distinguish people whose conduct was heroic proof of their faith. Lacrimosa is dedicated to the victims of December 1970; Agnus Dei to Cardinal Wyszynski; the first and the second parts of Dies Irae to the Warsaw Uprising and to Polish resistance against Nazi Germany, and to Saint Maksymilian Kolbe; and Libera me, Domine commemorates the victims of Katyn. Polish Requiem (without Sanctus, which would not be composed until 1993) was premiered in Stuttgart by Mstislav Rostropovich, the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, W├╝rttemberg City Opera Choir, and S├╝ddeutsche Rundfunk Choir on September 24, 1984.

The first performance of Krzysztof Penderecki's Agnus Dei from Polish Requiem performed by 8 cellos was given on 3 October 2007 on the occasion of the memorial service for Mstislav Rostropovich in St. John's Church in Kronberg (Germany). Professors and students of the Kronberg Academy Cello Festivals performed under the direction of Frans Helmerson.

OLGA HANS' Sun Songs (Piesni sloneczne) for 7 cellos was composed in 1999 and premiered in Lodz in 2000. It is in free rhapsodic form, developing in three major movements, the first and last of them slow and melodious, beginning with a cello solo, and a fast and ferocious second movement between them. By no means a programmatic work, Piesni sloneczne's title, character, and melodic material bring to mind a pagan hymn to the Sun.

ARVO PART's O-Antiphonen, or Great Antiphons, belong to a particular liturgical form of Advent. An antiphon is a response, usually sung in Gregorian chant, to a psalm or as some other part of a religious service, such as vespers. This meaning gave rise to the antiphonic - i.e. "call and response" - style of singing. Antiphons are an integral part of worship in both the Eastern Orthodox and Greek Orthodox churches. In the seven Great Antiphons from the week before Christmas, which antedate the 8th century, Jesus is called out for with seven names that the Messiah was given in the Old Testament, each name preceded by the vowel O and followed by a begging plea for His coming. These so-called 'O Antiphonen' were set to music by Arvo Part in 1988 for a capella choir with the title Sieben Magnificat-Antiphonen.

Cello Octet Amsterdam and Arvo Part had for years shared a desire to work together. Part's idea of divesting his Sieben Magnificat-Antiphonen of text and putting them in the hands of a cello ensemble was an opportunity to finally realize this long cherished wish. Cello Octet Amsterdam performed the world premiere of the work in October 2008, in the presence of maestro Part himself. In the words of the composer, it was "the unique sound of Cello Octet Amsterdam& that inspired me to write O-Antiphonen and make these literal 'Songs Without Words' possible."

The work was commissioned with the support of Amsterdam's Fonds voor de Kunst and the Amsterdam Cello Biennale.

TERRY RILEY's ArchAngels
Terry Riley writes: "The Queen of Dark Waters and Protection Vigil were written during a period of serious preoccupation with the sinister, aggressive, and war-and-profit-driven direction taken by the government of the country in which I live, the USA. During the build-up to the unjust and vicious war of aggression by the US and Britain against the peoples of Iraq, I conceived of the idea of protection vigils (a kind of prayer through music, if you will) as a way of calling on help from the spirit world (angels) to shelter the innocent victims of war."

"One of these vigils was held from dusk to dawn in Nevada City, California, with scores of performers all contributing their particular approach to this idea. I also formed a vigil band to perform protection and peace vigils before the unjust war on Iraq".

"These two works were not written as a form of entertainment, but as a way to bring us together through music in an atmosphere of reflection and a common desire for peace and protection for all precious life. In scoring ArchAngels I decided on a radical approach to the tuning of the open strings of the ensemble. Normally, for cello, they are tuned from the bottom string to the top, c-g-d-a. While keeping this relationship, I transposed the fundamental tone to four other degrees of the scale, which gives the complete chromatic scale in open strings. This should give a deep and darkly resonant sound quite different from that given if all the cellos were in the normal tuning. ArchAngels was commissioned by the festival in Cuenca, Spain, and written especially for the marvelous Cello Octet Conjunto Iberico (Cello Octet Amsterdam) ensemble"
- In the spirit of Peace, Terry Riley, Assisi, Italy, 21 February 2004

Spanish composer CRISTOBAL HALFFTER has forged a successful career as composer and conductor, writing music which combines traditional Spanish elements with avant-garde techniques. Halffter has composed a large number of chamber music works and symphonies, including Elegia la muerte de tres poetas espanoles, Oficio de difuntos, and Versus. Many of his works are composed for soloists, such as his Concerto for Cello No. 2 No queda mas que el silencio (premiered by Rostropovich), the Double Concerto for Violin and Viola, and the Concerto for Piano.

Halffter's Fandango is based on the well-known Fandango for clavichord usually attributed to Santiago Soler (1729-1783), but probably composed by Padre Basilio, the 18th-century Spanish monk who was considered the greatest guitarist of his time. Halffter calls that work "a masterpiece in all aspects, but especially in the way the element of popular dance mixes with the two ostinatos which can be heard throughout the composition and the impressive technical mastery of the composer."

The Fandango served as inspiration for two compositions by Halffter: the Preludio Madrid, written to celebrate Madrid's selection as the capital of Europe in 1992, and this Fandango for Eight Cellos, intended to pay homage to well-loved cellists such as Gaspar Cassado, Mstislav Rostropovich, Boris Pergamenschikov, and Heinrich Schiff. A work of unusual instrumental complexity, it premiered in Stuttgart on September 29, 1989. The Cello Octet Amsterdam first played the piece in the presence of the composer in Madrid in 1991; since then, it has become one of the Octet's greatest hits, with over two hundred performances.

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