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That’s What She Said – Postcards from Erica September 2021

Trying to find unaccompanied cello music by women composers? Look no further.
Cellist and women’s music specialist, Erica Lessie, is back this month with three short “postcards.” Usually, these are curated pieces for three different levels: novice, intermediate student, and seasoned player. However, this month is a slight departure from the norm.

 

Here is my September 2021 installment of “That’s What She Said . . . Unaccompanied Cello Works by Women Composers.” 

I hope you enjoy exploring this month’s pieces as much as I did selecting them. Want to know more about my digital postcards? See my first installment for more information, then browse the series archive to discover (or rediscover) some amazing music.

Vintage "USA" scenic stamp with postmark; photo of the pre-9/11 Manhattan skyline in a stamp-style frame; green leaves draped across both images

Special note: As September 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I have chosen three solo cello works written in response to the events of that day and in memory of the victims. All of these pieces are hauntingly beautiful and are a testament to the skill of the composers.

September Postcard #1:

Yizkor. “May He [God] remember.” These opening words to the Jewish memorial prayer are intended to renew and strengthen the connections between the living and those who have passed on. The phrase is also a call to action – after the service, the faithful should privately perform a charitable deed in this world to elevate the souls of the departed.

Composition Details

  • Title: Yizkor
  • Composer: Ayala Asherov
  • Instrumentation: unaccompanied cello
  • Year Composed: 2001, 2009
  • Movements: 3 – Andante, Allegro, Lento
  • Duration of Work: Andante – 1:53, Allegro – 1:36, Lento – 2:31
  • Number of Measures: 35, 34,37
  • Number of Pages: 5
  • Tempo: (quarter = 56), (dotted quarter = 80, 66, 70), (quarter = 48)
  • Difficulty Level: Andante – advanced, Allegro – late beginner/intermediate Lento – advanced
  • Highest Position Reached: Andante – thumb, Allegro – 6th, Lento – thumb
  • Techniques Employed: Andante -3/8, 2/4, 3/4, 4/4 time signatures; bass, tenor, treble clefs; slurs,
    one double stop, thumb position, several challenging shifts
    Allegro – 9/8, 12/8,15/8 time signatures; bass & tenor clefs; accidentals, slurs, 1 grace
    note, one triplet
    Lento – 3/4 & 4/4 time signatures, bass, tenor, and treble clefs; double stops, triplets, 32nd
    notes, triplets
  • Publisher: Mixed Meter Publishing
  • Where to Find Score: J. W. Pepper
  • Cost of Score: $4.95* (digital download)

Recordings:

 

 

Program Notes

“Yizkor means ‘remembrance’ in Hebrew. It is Judaism’s memorial prayer (the voice that cries, the voice that is heard no more). I had written the movement ‘Lento’ in 2001 after the horrific events of 9/11. Later, in 2009, I added the ‘Allegro’ and ‘Andante’ to reflect what happened before this movement. However, the performer can play the movements in the order of his/her choice.” – composer’s website

Cellist’s Guide

Both the Andante and Lento require familiarity with high thumb position and would therefore be considered advanced-level pieces. The Allegro, despite numerous accidentals, would be manageable for the intermediate player. As the composer suggests, the movements can be played in any order. I think it would be interesting to have two advanced and one intermediate player each take a movement and perform the work in succession on a studio recital.

September Postcard #2:

Cellist Ina-Esther Joost noted that “Meira’s music…comes from a place which is beyond music. It is like a prayer…from deep within the soul. It always evokes deep responses from the listeners and is very moving for me to perform.” Indeed, In Memoriam plays like a series of musical thoughts, evoking the many individuals who lost their lives or loved ones amid tragic circumstances and yet became forever bound to one another in collective remembrance.

Composition details

  • Title: In Memoriam (September 11, 2001)
  • Composer: Meira M. Warshauer
  • Instrumentation: unaccompanied cello
  • Movements: 1
  • Duration of Work: 5:37
  • Number of Measures: 66
  • Number of Pages: 2
  • Tempo: quarter = 50-69
  • Difficulty Level: Advanced
  • Highest Position Reached: High Thumb
  • Techniques Employed: 3/4, 4/4, 5/4 time signatures: bass & treble clefs, grace notes, triplets,many accidentals
  • Publisher: Meira M. Warshauer
  • Where to Purchase: Composer’s website
  • Cost of Score: free,* with advance notice to the composer of any public performance

Recordings:

Available on the composer’s website (Robert Jesselson, cello)

and

Performance Notes

I wrote these sketches during the days of watching the horror of the attacks of September 11, 2001: the collapse of the World Trade Center, the attack on the Pentagon, the plane crash in Pennsylvania.

I didn’t have a piece in mind, or consciously set out to write one. But the sketches seemed to belong together, afterwards, and to fit the solo cello. It is my way of holding each other in our loss.

It reflects my sadness, our collective sadness
The loss of loved ones
Looking for survivors, not finding,
hoping it isn’t true,
disbelief…
It is true.
The slow motion collapse of the towers—
wit the collapse, all of our losses
our national sense of invulnerability gone

humility
interdependence
prayer

– Meira Warshauer, 2001

Cellist’s Guide

While playing In Memoriam, I imagine that I can hear hints of the Shofar, an ancient musical instrument made from a ram’s or kudu’s horn used on important Jewish public and religious occasions. The descending shape of phrases late in the work gradually fall from the top of the cello, reminding me of the collapse of the Twin Towers.

September Postcard #3:

Originally, a chaconne was a spirited, even suggestive, dance. Its musical form, similar to a passacaglia, found favor with Baroque composers and evolved into a continuous variation on a harmonic progression. Thus, it is perhaps fitting that the composer subsequently revised her work, originally inspired by the tragedy of 9/11 but ultimately progressing from mourning into reverie, recalling those lost with love rather than sadness.

Composition details

  • Title: September 11
  • Composer: Tanya Anisimova
  • Instrumentation: unaccompanied cello
  • Year Composed: 2001, later revised
  • Duration of Work: 5:47
  • Number of Measures: 94
  • Number of Pages: 3
  • Tempo: quarter note = 60
  • Difficulty level: Advanced
  • Highest Position Reached: Thumb
  • Techniques Employed: 3/4 & 4/4 time signatures, bass, tenor & treble clefs; double, triple & quadruple stops; triplets, quintuplets & sextuplets: harmonics, left hand pizzicato while playing double stops
  • Where to Find Score: Composer’s website
  • Cost of Score: $9.99*

Recording:

Performance Notes: 

September 11 for solo cello came to me soon after the horrible events in September of 2001.

The work is in the form of a chaconne.

The world premier took place during my solo recital in October 2001, at the National Hebrew Congregation in Washington, D.C. and it was featured on my 2002 Concert in Moscow CD.

While preparing for a concert last year, I decided to revise the work. The present version is slightly longer; the culmination is more developed.

While this composition has a mournful aura, it is not a work of desperate anguish, but rather a life-affirming one.

There is an all-pervading light. The souls of the innocent are not lost, but remembered with love.

-composer

Cellist’s Guide

The main prerequisites for playing this piece are: having a strong left hand, a solid knowledge of the fingerboard, and being able to play consistently in tune. While this work is slow and written mostly in bass clef, the majority of the notes are double stops. While visiting Anisimova’s site, take the opportunity to listen to her other works for cello and support her as a composer.


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*Prices are accurate at the time of article publication, but The Cello Museum cannot take responsibility for subsequent price changes.

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