Pascal Dusapin, At Swim-Two-Birds

Pascal Dusapin, At Swim-Two-Birds

"I hesitated a long time before accepting the commission for a double concerto. I had just finished a violin concerto (Aufgang, 2011) for Renaud Capuçon and the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne, and I had to sit down and write a cello concerto for Alisa Weilerstein and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Outscape, 2015), not to mention that I also had to write a long violin solo piece for Carolin Widmann (In vivo, 2014) and that I promised Anssi Karttunen I would write a cello sonata for him and the pianist Nicolas Hodges (Slackline, 2016)… 

So I was bombarded from all sides by violin and cello. Then Viktoria Mullova and Matthew Barley asked me if I was interested in writing a double concerto for them. It was a very understated yet insistent request that really impressed me. I replied that I wasn’t quite sure yet, that maybe it was “too much” for me with those two instruments again... 

They responded that a violin and cello together are another instrument entirely.

That changed everything... 

While I was composing, I discovered Flann O’Brien’s 1939 book with the very strange title, untranslatable in French, of At Swim-Two-Birds. When I decided to borrow this title for my composition, I didn’t try to establish a parallel between this book and my music, but I was struck by the formal and narrative extravagance of this Irish writer. Then I realised that I was trying to find a form and a conduit for musical events that was a bit similar, where the story written by the imaginary protagonist is intertwined with the true story of the author.

Also, there are two birds in the title...

Commissioned by the NTR Zaterdagmatinee series at the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, the London Philharmonic Orchestra (with the generous support of Diaphonique, the Franco-British fund for contemporary music supported by the Bureau Export, the British Council, and the Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication), the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, and Radio France, At Swim-Two-Birds is dedicated to Viktoria Mullova and Matthew Barley, with much kindness and admiration."

Pascal Dusapin

Have a look at the score


Dates of performances

30 Sept. 2017 - Amsterdam - Radio Philarmonic Orchestra - cond. Markus Stenz 
02 Febr. 2018 - Turin - Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale Rai - cond. Henrik Nanasi 
17,18 May 2018 - Leipzig - Gewandhaus Orchestra - cond. Dima Slobodeniouk 
24 May 2018 - Paris - Orchestre national de France - cond. Pascal Rophé
08 Nov. 2018 - Seattle - Seattle Symphony Orchestra - cond. Ludovic Morlot 
28 Nov. 2018 - London - London Philharmonic Orchestra