2004 ANATOMY OF PASSION for cello & piano

ANATOMY OF PASSION (2004) has an exciting history. One night the cellist Alexander Baillie and pianist James Lisney came to my hometown of Tetbury to play all five sonatas by Beethoven in the local church. I was utterly bowled over by their performance and accosted them with rapturous praise accordingly – which in turn provoked them to ask after my music. I sent them a sample of my music on CD and after only a couple of months they responded, expressing great interest and asking me to write something for them. I couldn’t have anticipated a more pleasing response!

Some time later, having attended several more of their concerts, I began researching this combination of instruments in earnest – an combination I would never have considered had I not encountered these two outstanding musicians. Cello and piano is such a traditional ensemble with such a vast repertoire of established and popular compositions that the prospect of offering my own addition to the genre frightened rather than invited me. But when I sat down to start the work, ideas came fast and in droves. Of great concern was the balance between these two very different instruments and how to provide the cello with optimum acoustical depth through the harmonies and colors of the piano part.

Although no mention of Beethoven is made in the music, his ominous shadow hovered over the pages, challenging me to write music worthy of his example. In particular his power of dialogue, which the musicians projected so convincingly in their ensemble playing, was a constant preoccupation in the design of my own music. On the other hand I did include an homage to Iannis Xenakis, who was one of my great inspirations in the sixties and seventies, however many reservations I have developed about his music since. In particular his composition Eonta (1964) was an ear-opener at the time and a quotation from it marks the opening of the Coda. It is not difficult to spot other references to his language, but they are generally integrated into a host of other allusions to my musical heritage. The overall design of Anatomy is much more a fruit of Debussy’s last works, such as the violin- and cello sonatas, some preludes and etudes.

Joy and James Lisney’s performance of Anatomy of Passion was chosen for ‘Critic’s Choice’ – Events of the Year 2013′ by Seen and Heard International. Roger Jones wrote:

(…)Music does not come to a halt with the death of a composer (John Tavener, november 2013) and it was good to have a living composer, Jan Vriend, in the audience to hear both Lisneys premiere his work Anatomy of Passion. This wide ranging work by Vriend (a Dutchman resident in the UK) calling for considerable virtuosity on the part of the performers. It was impossible not to be caught up with the scope of the work, the boldness of Vriend’s concept and the extraordinary sounds he commanded from both piano and cello.