In his new sonata, Aspects of Return, native cello-speaker Jakub Jankowski draws on psychology, philosophy and poetry.

Composing for cello and piano as an ensemble is always a challenging undertaking. Both instruments are radically different and speak in very different musical languages. Unlike the majority of cello sonatas – which are virtually all written by pianist-composers – mine is written by a native cello-speaker.

Jakub JankowskiComposer Jakub Jankowski

The piece is titled Aspects of Return and is cast in three movements – Prologue, Nocturne and Capriccio – each of which are centred around this common theme. Our lives are full of attempts at returning to the past or to previous states of being. This virtually always proves to be an impossibility, either because what we are returning to has changed, or we ourselves have changed along with our perceptions. Each movement of my sonata is supplemented with a quotation and presents a different aspect of this paradox of return. While the authors of these quotations come from very different backgrounds and disciplines – psychology, philosophy and poetry – they all point to this central idea of return in unique ways.

I. Prologue: “… there is always the danger that the things we have neglected will return with added force.” – Carl Jung.

II. Nocturne: “Ever-newer waters flow on those who step into the same rivers.” – Heraclitus of Ephesus.

III. Capriccio: “And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” – TS Eliot.

Each of the three movements illustrates a different musical metaphor of return, and each movement unfolds within its own unique musical landscape. The first movement, Prologue, begins with an explosive musical statement, which both instruments attempt to subdue and ignore. It returns with increased power at the movement’s conclusion. The second movement is a Nocturne, and explores the unique lyricism of both instruments, making it the heart of the sonata. It features a number of central musical themes, which are continually returned to throughout the movement and which continually transform upon every successive return. I titled the final movement Capriccio, not only in reference to its energy and speed, but also to the sudden changes of character and tempo throughout. The music for this movement unfolds in a distinctly cyclical way.

Because this sonata was specifically written for Nicolas Altstaedt and Aleksandar Madžar, I wanted to make a feature of the phenomenal musicianship and technical mastery of these players. I explore different types of instrumental virtuosity throughout the sonata, and the way in which the cello and piano relate to one another changes throughout the piece.

Jakub Jankowski’s Aspects of Return will be premiered by cellist Nicolas Altstaedt and pianist Aleksandar Madžar, touring nationally for Musica Viva Australia, September 11 – 30.