British cellist Timothy Gill and American pianist/composer David Gompper gave the first US performance of Zoë’s new work for cello and piano “Ondine” as part of a recital given at Iowa University, September 2022.
They also recorded the piece for a duo album for release early next year.
COMPOSER’S NOTE, “Ondine”.
In spite of the daunting legacy of master works with the same title, by Debussy, Ravel and Henze to name three, there was no question that this piece simply had to take the name of the water spirit, “Ondine”.
Sitting by one of the many natural springs that gush from the rocks in the ancient woodlands near where I live, the fairy stories and myths surrounding elemental beings and water nymphs started to bubble up, like the sparkling water in front of me, from within.
Usually depicted as female, Ondines (or Undines) are said to be found in forest pools and waterfalls, their beautiful singing voices heard over the sound of the water. Perfect sonic subject matter for a cello and piano to explore!
The music follows the journey of water from spring to waterfall to rapids to great river, the camera sometimes homing in on sparkling droplets and bubbles, flowing ineffably towards the great ocean before finally evaporating into light, and the cycle begins again. A crystalline metaphor for the yearning of the human soul to merge with something greater than itself, always seeking perfection. And in these times of profound planetary upheaval and transformation, a reminder that no state is permanent, that all will pass.
(Incidentally, a soul is the one thing Ondines are said to lack, unless they marry a human, which drastically shortens their time on Earth. Which can’t be great for domestic life, let’s face it.)
My deepest gratitude to cellist Timothy Gill and pianist/composer David Gompper for commissioning this piece. Their virtuosity and world class musicianship (along with a few aquatic sprites) was an inspiration throughout. My profound thanks also goes to the wonderful RVW Trust for supporting this piece, which simply wouldn’t have happened without them.