The Dreaming Land was written especially for British cellist Natalie Clein for her first Australian tour for Musica Viva. The ancient land depicted in the piece alludes to Australia itself and the work explores emotional connections to the physical world, presenting a sonic journey across a fictional landscape. I met with Natalie in London and we shared ideas about the nature of the contemporary sonata form, the role of cello as storyteller and the beauty of a musical journey forming a structure for new work.
A feeling of attachment or belonging to a land or terrain is experienced by many, with a particular affinity for where we spend our childhood. This sonata embodies those dual ideas of physical landscape and emotional memory. The sonata form is recast as a musical journey portrayed by a narrator (cello) and a companion (piano). They walk through a sonic story of the vast environment of an ancient land, the listener participating as a companion traveller. The solo cello embodies the journey itself and sings in multiple voices throughout the piece. The cello voice switches between a background storyteller and the foreground characters presented in each movement.
Like the landscape, the cello is capable of boundless instrumental and sonic techniques. The depth and heights of its pitch range, the strength and gentleness of sound quality and the violent and tranquil possibilities in articulation render the cello a dynamic narrator and spirited musical character. The brightness of its voice is shown in the opening measures as it sings the song of ancient voices. The darkness of forgotten memory is depicted through the low drones and attacks in movement two. The spirit and vivacity of the dance of life is depicted through the furiously virtuosic final movement.
In Voice of the Ancients, the players appear amidst a timeless landscape, floating in memory. They gradually reveal interjecting voices from the past as the movement transforms into a slow hymn from eternity, dissipating into the echoes of the past. The second movement, The Chanting Walker… personifies the solo cello as a lone traveller walking steadily across a flat landscape, trudging slowly through time. The low bass punctuations in the piano ground the traveller as the walker chants in time with each footstep. Ethereal Furies, forces the narrator and companion into a battle with the elements, as they dance across the limitless earth, navigating the furious expanse of time, life and the eternal.
Natalie Clein and Katya Apekisheva will perform the world premiere performances of Natalie Williams’ The Dreaming Land on their national tour for Musica Viva, February 23 – March 2