Calvinon viisi sanaa

by Olli Virtaperko

Five Words of Calvino

Double Concerto for Violoncello & Accordeon and Chamber Orchestra

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Olli Virtaperko

Calvinon viisi sanaa

Music Finland


Five Words of Calvino (2008-2010) is a double concerto in five movements for cello, accordeon and symphony orhcestra. The concerto reflects the book Six Memos for the Next Millennium by Italo Calvino (1923-1985). Originally intended as a series of lectures for Charles Eliot Norton Lecures at Harvard, Six Memos deals with the values of literature Calvino considered essential to be conveyed to the 21th century. However, during the phase of preparing the lectures Calvino unexpectedly died, leaving the sixth lecture unfinished. However, first five lectures were completed and their titles – Lightness, Quickness, Exactitude, Visibility and Multiplicity – gave inspiration to the concerto by the means of providing titles to individual movements, as well as offering a fundamental concept to the entire work.

A repetative theme in Calvino’s thinking throughout his whole career was the concept of lightness. Twelve years before his death Calvino wrote: "My working method has more often than not involved the subtraction of weight. I have tried to remove weight, sometimes from people, sometimes from heavenly bodies, sometimes from cities; above all I have tried to remove weight from the structure of stories and from language." In Six Memos Calvino continues exploring the topic – in fact, the book largely concentrates on poundering the contradiction between lightness and weight. This Calvino’s leitmotive also serves as a conceptual starting point for my composition. In the concerto the concept of lightness is highlited by the characteristical usage of natural harmonics in the cello solo part, as well as in the whole orchestral string section. The dicotomy lightness-weight is most faithfully presented in the fourth movement Lightness, in which the abundance of natural harmonics sublimes and rises solo cello to ethereal, weightless heights while static and heavy accordeon chords prevents the floating cello from escaping to the immateriality of musical infinity.

A bit more than half-an-hour-long double concerto is divided in two major structural continuums. The first movement, Visibility, starts as a quiet duet for cello and accordeon, gradually growing into virtuotic and rich concerto texture that utilizes full orcherstral resourcs of the accompanying instruments. Seguing attacca to a swift second movement Quickness, the first half of the concerto ends with a furious climax. The spectral and strictly to natural-harmonics-scale-committed third movement Exacitude opens the latter part of the concerto. Through previously mentioned fourth monement – Lightness – the concerto reaches its final Multiplicity, in which both solo instruments are provided with separate solo cadenzas. After the last orchestral forte the music transfigures towards silence by the means of the soloists rising to their very highest register. Eventually, a soft bell-like low C from celesta and vibraphone closes the concerto to its end.

Five Words of Calvino was commissioned by accordionist and composer Veli Kujala with the support from Finnish Arts Council and Sibelius Foundation of Finnish Society of Composers. The concerto was premiered by Timo-Veikko Valve (vc solo), Veli Kujala (acc solo) and Sinfonia Lahti (under Ari Rasilainen) at Sibelius Hall in Lahti, Finland, on 6 December 2011.

Olli Virtaperko, May 2011


2222 2111 12 1, cel/pno, str, vlc solo, acc solo [pic, bcl, cbsn]


Works for Orchestra or Large Ensemble


Veli Kujala, accordion, Timo-Veikko Valve, cello, Lahti Sinfonia, cond. Ari Rasilainen, Sibelius Hall, Lahti, Finland, 6 December 2010.


I Näkyvyys, II Nopeus, III Täsmällisyys, IV Keveys, V Moninaisuus

Commisioned by / dedications

Calvinon viisi sanaa was commissioned by Veli Kujala.

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139 pages

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