Pascal Dusapin,

Pascal Dusapin, "Outscape" a cello concerto

Alisa Weilerstein joins guest conductor Cristian Măcelaru and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in concerts May 26-31 featuring the world premiere of Outscape for cello and orchestra by Pascal Dusapin. The French composer’s recent works, according to the New York Times, “evoke both the avant-garde structures of his idol Edgard Varèse and the emotional immediacy of film music.” Outscape is Dusapin’s second work in a cycle about nature. “The more I compose this work, the more the idea of a desert of snow is present,” Dusapin said in the 2014 Times article when he was still at work on the piece. “It’s very calm for me — the music is not — but this inspires me.” Weilerstein will later present the concerto’s first European performances with the Stuttgart and Paris Opera orchestras.

What excited you about the possibility of a cello concerto by Pascal Dusapin?

I listened to several of his other works and was immediately taken by his unique musical language and orchestration. I was thrilled when I heard that he might write something for me.

Could you describe the piece, especially its musical language? How do you see it relating with nature? 

The piece has a very interesting combination of yearning lyricism and urgent drive. One could almost describe it as neo-romantic in that it is emotionally very open, and yet its orchestration and language is absolutely of today. There is an almost constant, very intricate rhythmic interplay between the orchestra and soloist that gives the piece a nervous energy, and it makes for some incredibly compelling writing.

What technical and interpretative challenges does the concerto present to the performer?

Pascal clearly knows the cello very well. The solo part is technically demanding but lies beautifully in the hands. The ensemble between the solo part and orchestra as well as the layers of instrumentation also present some fun challenges.

Excerpt from Kyle MacMillan article read full article

Have a look at the score

Pascal Dusapin about his cello concerto Outscape

Outscape is my second score for cello and orchestra. The first was written in 1996 and was called Celo (to keep a secret in Latin). Even after all these years, I knew that one day I would once again encounter a concerto for that instrument. And then along came the commission from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for Alisa Weilerstein. I was dazzled by Alisa’s tone and phrasing, and by her incredible ease in addressing the most diverse repertoires (from Elliott Carter to Edward Elgar via Haydn!) and I immediately felt that a new composition could be inspired by such magnificent, unfettered musical energy. To bring together such an artist with an orchestra as majestic as the CSO is an extremely rare challenge for a composer. I was very happy to have composed this score for such musicians.

But it’s difficult for me to explain my work because the substance of thought is confused with the flow of the music. To compose is to create a living thing. The music comes to life itself: it draws the force of its regeneration from its own dynamism; it invents its own future, the conditions of its form and the emotions it produces. Ultimately, something has been said.

The title carries the musical project within itself. Outscape is a rather unusual English word (at least for a French speaker); it’s a rich word that has a variety of meanings from the most common to the more philosophical. Outscape is the route, or the opportunity to flee, to invent your own path. I loved this word because fundamentally it is like a summary of my work history: escape elsewhere in order to understand and ascertain, and try to see and hear further.

That’s how this concerto is invented by itself, by going incessantly back and forth between a cello “becoming an orchestra” and an orchestra “becoming a cello”. Every musical force wants to go towards the other, to merge with the “otherness”, to get to know and become those differences, to escape, return, and generate a renewed musical future. In Outscape, I’ve never felt like I put the soloist and orchestra in opposition; instead, I guide them towards one other.

At the beginning of Outscape, everything seems simple: the cello plays a low note, a C#. The bass clarinet immediately plays the same note: an echo, the note’s shadow. By mimicking one another in turn, the cello and bass clarinet – followed by the whole orchestra – will learn to sing and unfold together, imagine multiple ways to escape and together invent another “nature”…

I dedicate Outscape to Bill Brown, for his wonderful support and friendship.

Concert dates:

- 26, 27, 28, 29 & 31 May 2016 by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Cristian Macelaru in Chicago
- 19 & 20 June 2016 by the Stuttgart Opera Orchestra conducted by Markus Stenz at the Stuttgart Opera
- 6 April 2017 by the Orchestre de l’Opéra de Paris conducted by Susanna Mälkki at the Opéra Garnier
- Summer 2017 by the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London
- 18 November 2017 by the Orquestra Sinfónica do Porto Casa da Música conducted by Baldur Brönnimann at the Casa da Musica de Porto - cello Anssi Karttunen