My Second Cello Concerto was commissioned shortly after the first performance of my orchestral piece Memorial, which Rostropovich conducted in the LSO’s ‘Festival of Britten’ in February 1993. It was composed between September 1994 and April 1996.
It’s a very contrasting piece to my first concerto, in which the cello is often almost submerged under luxurious orchestral textures. I’ve tried to write something much sparer and at the same time more lyrical. Writing for Rostropovich is a huge challenge – for me the major difficulty was in avoiding the sort of virtuosic writing that can end up as mere fireworks without any substance. Consequently in the third movement, a dynamic scherzo, it’s the orchestra that really goes to town, while the cello plays (though not entirely unvirtuosically!) only in the trio sections.
There are five movements, which play without a break: the whole work lasts a little under half an hour.