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Sonata No. 2 for Cello and Piano was written for the American cellist Nicolas Photinos, who is a member of the Chicago-based new music ensemble Eighth Blackbird. Subtitled Departure, or in Chinese, Shi, the piece takes its inspiration from a line of poetry by the Song Dynasty poet, Su Dongpo. The line of verse roughly translates as:
From here and now, I shall depart with my little boat, for the rest of my life, on the sea I would float.
Though written in five movements, the work has a sense of unbroken continuity, resembling what is called Chi in Chinese art. The first, third, and fifth movements are based on the same material, a tune of innocent simplicity and melancholy, which I call "the theme of parting". It is stated first by the solo cello in the first movement, followed by piano solo in the third movement Intermezzo, and finally by both instruments in the last movement. Each of the statements is treated differently and possesses a unique atmosphere, which suggests that while the words of each departure remain more or less the same, the emotional state varies. The word "departure" can be interpreted as an ending as well as a beginning. My work explores this double meaning in its structure and treatment of melodic and rhythmic materials, as well as in its overall mood. At the end of the piece, as the notes from the cello's ostinato figure gradually ebb away and only two pitches (G and A) remain, the music returns to its beginning.
Nicolas Photinos and I gave the first performance of this work in the Cincinnati New Music Festival in summer 2001.
Gao Ping, Gao Ping - Chamber Music, NAXOS
First performed by Gao Ping (piano) and Nicolas Photinos (cello) at the Cincinnati New Music Festival in summer 2001
Performed by Anita Jelhi (cello) and Gao Ping (piano) at the Auditorium of the Banque de Luxembourg, Luxembourg on the 23rd and 24th November, 2004