Paul Stanhope explains how the melancholy music of John Dowland became the inspiration for his upbeat new concerto.

WorkDawn and Darkness
ComposerPaul Stanhope
Scored forCello and orchestra
Commissioned by Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Vicki Olsson
PremiereMay 4, 2016
PerformersNarek Hakhnazaryan vc, Sydney Symphony Orchestra/Oleg Caetani


Much of my recent music involves weaving found objects – for example fragments of early music – into my own musical voice. My aim is to connect to the Western musical tradition and find new and inventive combinations of sound that come about through a process of stylistic juxtaposition and integration.

My new piece, Dawn and Darkness, is a short cello concerto commissioned by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, with support from Vicki Olsson, to sit alongside Tchaikovsky’s grand Rococo Variationswhich together form the first half of the concert. Both works use similar orchestral forces (mine adds percussion, harp and celesta to a small band of winds, strings and two horns) and refer to early music themes. However, rather than being a formal set of variations as in Tchaikovsky’s work, my piece is a compact yet free-flowing series of embellishments on two short thematic fragments from a lute song, In...