Sonata for cello and orchestra
The success of
Anaklasis at the Donaueschinger
Festival in 1960 led to a contract with Heinrich Strobel, the festival
director, according to which Penderecki was to present a new piece at the
festival every other year.This agreement produced Fluorescences in 1962 and two years later – with the Sonata for cello and orchestra.
We owe the idea of this composition, as well as its excellent reception, to the musical personality of soloist Siegfried Palm, about whom the musicologist Mieczysław Tomaszewski wrote: “Whoever saw and heard Siegfried Palm play his cello even once, will never forget this experience”. Palm combined a musical talent comparable to that of Rostropovich with a lively interest in avant-garde experiments of that period and in instrumental theatre. The work that Strobel and his festival were presented with as a result of the composer’s collaboration with the soloist was thoroughly modern, even though it did not have the scandalising potential of Fluorescences. The peculiar orchestral line-up contributed – as Tomaszewski put it – to “a shift of orchestral colour towards hollow and dark timbres”, but also gave the second part of the Sonata a “Spanish aura” due to the specific choice of percussion instruments.
The two parts of the less than 10-minute composition differ not only in temperament and sound colour, but also in the type of narration: smoothly flowing and song-like in the first part and motorically hyperactive’ in the second. Palm overcame the various technical difficulties in a truly acrobatic manner, to the mutual satisfaction of the composer and the performer. Their collaboration would soon yield the Capriccio for Siegfried Palm and the cello version of the Concerto for violino grande and orchestra.