Giovanni Sollima, the Sicilian cellist famous for strolling about the stage as he performs, returns to Sydney as part of a national tour with the Australian Chamber Orchestra in Sequenza Italiana, a programme that spans 500 years of Italian music.
ACO Artistic Director Richard Tognetti met Giovanni Sollima at the Festival Maribor in Slovenia in 2011.As a result, the peripatetic cellist and composer was invited to lead the ACO on a national tour in 2014, and Sydney’s musicians and audiences loved the spirited, dextrous soloist and the infectious exuberance and passion he brought to music.
Speaking to SoundsLikeSydney during his visit in 2014, Sollima said “I think it’s not true that we know everything about the cello – we’re still exploring. Of course it is another body but it also a part of my body – I get feedback, I feel the vibrations; part of the sounds goes into the space but also some of it comes back into the body”.
Describing his tour 2016 program, Sollima says ” The program that the ACO and I are playing is of Italian composers, and includes influences from Naples. I like to think of a program as a narrative, a tale, with connections, contrasts, stories, mysteries, secrets, love, and more. In the 18th century, the ‘cradle’ of the cello was Bologna, and later Naples which had an incredible number of musicians and cello virtuosi. Their music was like ‘singing stories’ – operatic or theatrical – although written for cello. They had temperament, and at the same time, elegance and subtle irony.”
Rossini’s Une larme (A tear) was part of a series of works which he dubbed Péchés de Vieillesse (Sins of My Old Age) which conveys the sadness of the theme, but makes a brilliant showcase for the cellist; Berio’s Sequenzas are “compositional love-letters from Berio to the repertoires and possibilities for each instrument”. The programme features the ACO’s own violinist Satu Vänskä in Paganini’s bravura piece Introduction and Variations on ‘Dal tuo stellate soglio’ from Rossini’s Moses in Egypt and Maxime Bibeau in Scelsi’s incantatory double bass solo C’est bien la nuit from Nuits.
Sollima’s interpretation of of Neapolitan style will be evident in fellow cellist and composer Leonardo Leo’s third Cello Concerto, a cutting-edge work of its time, and also in his own work, Fecit Neap 17… Very much of today, it speaks of Neapolitan heritage with its title mirroring the common inscription found on manuscripts of the 18th century.
Sollima’s penchant for walking about on stage is a vestige of days of practice “when he’d fancy a cup of coffee or had to answer the doorbell and didn’t want to stop playing.” He is as much at home ripping out a Jimi Hendrix encore, or performing in an igloo theatre at an elevation of over 3,000 metres in the Italian Alps on a cello made of ice that a sculptor friend carved for him. Mesmerised by the cello’s “magical sound”, Sollima keeps it in a deep-freeze, and plans to play it to record the music of Bach.
Sollima’s tastes are broad. He composes for electric and acoustic instruments, and has written music for film directors and choreographers including Peter Greenaway, Wim Wenders and Karole Armitage. He is influenced by jazz, rock and ethnic traditions, drawing on European and especially Mediterranean folk music, Middle Eastern music and electronica. He has collaborated with artists ranging from DJ Scanner and American ‘punk poet laureate’ and artist Patti Smith to Claudio Abbado, Philip Glass and Yo-Yo Ma, working with the latter on his Silk Road Project.
The Music: MONTEVERDI (arr. strings) Lamento della ninfa / BERIO Sequenzas for Violin, Viola and Double Bass/ LEO Cello Concerto No.3 in D minor / PAGANINI Introduction and Variations on‘Dal tuo stellate soglio’ from Rossini’s Moses in Egypt/ ROSSINI (arr. Eliodoro Sollima) ‘Une larme’ Theme and Variations for Cello and Strings/ SCELSI C’est bien la nuit from Nuits/ GIOVANNI SOLLIMA Fecit Neap 17… for Cello, Strings and Continuo
The players: Giovanni Sollima Director & Cello/ Satu Vänskä Leader & Violin/Maxime Bibeau Double bass
Tickets: Click here to book.