On premiering the Brisk Cello Concerto
by Jerome Kessler
I have known and worked with Barry Brisk for many years. We have featured several of his admirable compositions with the Topanga Symphony. He has conducted my solo performances of “Schelomo”
and the Kabalevsky and Elgar Cello Concerti.
In 2019, he announced that he was writing me a cello concerto. This wasn’t a commission, but was a surprise, which I greeted with pleasure but also with apprehension.
When a composer writes something especially for you to play, there’s a moment of concern, if not terror: Will I be able to play it? Will I like it? Will the composer like what I do with his creation? Yikes!
Then, if all goes well, there’s the feeling of elation, when you get positive answers to all those questions. Ahh!
Some performers contribute significant input to a new work. (Think Rostropovich and the Prokofiev Sinfonia Concertante.) In this case, however, except for a few minor suggestions, I have few finger prints
on the score of Barry’s Concerto.
On March 8, 2020, we premiered the Cello Concerto with the Topanga Symphony. (Applause, applause.) We got it in under the wire: Four days later, all the Los Angeles concert venues closed, courtesy of COVID.
I look forward to playing the Cello Concerto again, and to hearing other cellists perform it in the future.