Berceuse for Dresden has its London premiere at the Proms on August 16, with Leonard Elschenbroich and the Hallé conducted by Sir Mark Elder.
The work was commissioned by the Friends of Dresden Music Foundation to commemorate the rebuilding of the Frauenkirche Dresden, destroyed by the Allied bombing of February 13-14 1945. The first performance took place on November 17, 2005 at the reopening of the Frauenkirche by the cellist Jan Vogler and the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Lorin Maazel.
The Berceuse, which I began work on shortly after my first visit to the city in 2004, is based almost entirely on the sounds of the eight bells of the Frauenkirche, their pitches transformed into long melodic lines for the solo cello, while the overtones of the bells give the underlying harmony of the piece. A berceuse is a lullaby or cradle song, but the mood of the work is impassioned as well as lyrical. Once the title had appeared, though, it seemed the only appropriate one, implying rebirth even if there are strong elements of turbulence and lament. The cello part is not designed to be in any way virtuoso or concerto-like, but takes the role almost of a wordless singer.
Berceuse for Dresden is dedicated to the memory of Victor Klemperer, whose remarkable diaries reveal that the destruction of Dresden was, paradoxically, for him a liberation. He had spent the day of February 13 1945 delivering letters to his few remaining fellow Jews in the city which told them that they were to be transported later that week. He and his wife both survived the firestorm, and fled to safety.