George is jealous, but you’d never know it, for ever since Shauna Rolston threw him over for a sleek American, he’s had no way of articulating his feelings. Locked away in a closet in his former intimate’s Toronto condo, George is now alone, his voice unheard, his body uncaressed.
But just in case you’re getting the wrong idea, here’s the twist: this stifled lover is a cello. George is Rolston’s nickname for the instrument that used to be her most cherished possession. Now, however, George has been supplanted by a much younger rival, and Rolston’s not sure she wants to admit this to the press. The problem, she feels, is that audiences might be tempted to judge her new companion with their eyes rather than their ears. Not only is her Boston-made Luis and Clark cello constructed from a space-age material, but it’s shaped more like a guitar than a George. Not that any of this matters to Rolston. For her, it was love at first listen.
“I’ve always been interested in all things new, so I’d known about these instruments for a while,” she explains, on the line from a Calgary hotel. “And then one of my former students showed up at my condo with this carbon-fibre cello and said, ”˜This has your name on it! You need it!’ I was leaving two days later on a big tour, starting with the [Ludwig van] Beethoven triple concerto and then a bunch of recitals, but I was just immediately fascinated by this instrument, everything about it. So I took it with me on that tour, after playing on it for, like, half a day—and I’ve been playing it about 90 percent of the time since then.”
When Rolston joins the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra at the Orpheum on Saturday and Monday (November 18 and 20), she’ll be introducing local audiences to her new beau. The occasion for her appearance is the world premiere of Gary Kulesha’s Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, a CBC Radio commission penned with Rolston in mind.
Like the Luis and Clark cello, Kulesha’s piece is a thoroughly modern undertaking, but that shouldn’t cause any audience alarm.
“Musically, most composers these days are looking for a language that speaks to audiences, but without abandoning what has been won,” says Kulesha, reached at home in Toronto. “Composers in the 20th century won freedom of expression and a vast palette of sound, and we don’t want to give that up. With this concerto, the vocabulary is loosely tonal and it’s still built on melodies; I’m very much a melodist. It’s a contemporary type of tonality, but the features of the concerto are quite traditional.”
For Rolston, the new work is distinguished by its blend of the hypnotic and the passionate.
“Gary’s known me and my playing for a long time, so I think he had a personal sense of what he would imagine from me, and with me, as a collaborator,” she says. “And since I’m a person of extremes, what he’s done in this piece pleases me quite a lot.”
Even George, we think, would approve.