concerto grosso for string orchestra
There are many things in High Windows that are old: the opening of the piece samples a fragment from one Paganini’s Caprices (No. 6 in G minor), the central section quotes an older piece of mine (Hoyt–Schermerhorn, for piano and electronics), and perhaps most prominently, High Windows is a sonata, a musical form which originated in the 17th century.
In using these old elements and putting them in a familiar order, I strove to create signposts to guide the listener through the distinct sections of the piece. As a result, the focus becomes not these distinct sections, but rather the interaction between them: how they fit together, commingle, discretely evolve and resolve. More than anything, though, the piece is an exercise in mixing these disparate elements—high and low, allusion and abstraction—to make something new.
The title High Windows is a quote, and has two meanings. It is a literal reference to the windows of St. Ann’s Church in Brooklyn, the reverberant space for which I composed the piece; it also refers to a Philip Larkin poem in which the older author sums up the tumult of his youth with the lines:
[…] And immediately
Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:
The sun-comprehending glass,
And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows
Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.
“The afternoon opened with the Washington premiere of Christopher Cerrone’s “High Windows,” for solo string quartet and string ensemble. It is an imaginative work in a personal minimalist fashion calling for powerfully lunging bows, sighing harmonics and perky half-tone statements. Cyr led the players with tasteful panache, emphasizing the fluidity of the music. One of the lush moments in the ever-changing texture of the Cerrone echoed Samuel Barber’s elegiac temperament.”Cecilia Porter, Washington Post