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The River Cam

Solo cello and string orchestra.

Duration: 11:00

The first three pages of the score:

The River Cam (DRAFT) pgs. 1-3

A very rough recording of the first three pages played here in a reading session by the wonderful Sinfonia Temesa:

In the fall of 2010 I spent a term at Cambridge University as a Visiting Fellow (at the gorgeous Sidney Sussex College). I wrote and conducted and taught and attended classes, and generally had the time of my life.

I also walked a lot. Every day I would stroll through the streets of Cambridge out to Newnham, a 25-30 minute walk each way, following the  idyllic banks along The River Cam. Here are a few pictures of the river I took with my iPhone whilst on my walks:

The Bridge of Sighs at St. John’s College:

Near Trinity College:

The chapel at King’s College:

As I walked alongside the river these little melodies began forming in my mind, informed by the sights, the sounds, the history of the land and of the University. Day after day I would sing these fragments, not really knowing what they were or what they might become. Around this time the cellist Julian Lloyd Webber asked me to write a piece for his 60th birthday concert, and I knew even as he was asking I would use these fragments as the foundation of the new work.

As the piece was beginning to take form I realized that I was writing a ‘pastoral piece’, undeniably British, with serious echoes of Elgar and Vaughan WIlliams. I didn’t care. I just tried to follow the thread of the melodic fragments and capture as best I could the quiet and heartbreaking beauty of The River Cam.

The piece was first performed April 14, 2011 at the Royal Festival Hall, played by the extraordinary Philharmonia Orchestra; Julian Lloyd Webber; cello; I was conducting.

  • http://sparkflyphotography.com dan!

    when do we get to hear it?!?

  • Emmalee

    "file not found" :(

  • Matt

    Before I read your notes at the bottom I was thinking "The Lark Ascending" with a Whitacre twist. This piece is pure beauty, and I cannot wait until it is finished.. Mr. Whitacre's mastery of lyrical texture transfers perfectly into the string voices, so much so that I am having difficulty not putting words to this piece. Splendid work, sir.

  • Guido Martin-Brandis

    I remember writing to you asking for when you were going to write your cello concerto with strings, and here it is! I know it's not a concerto, but actually us cellists lack a wide range of really good miniatures with orchestra – the above clip sound gorgeous. Can't wait to try it!

  • Adam

    YES!!! i just began writing for strings in my own compositions, and this is EXACTLY the type of reference i was looking for from my favorite composer. thank you so much for including a score- this draft has inspired me in such immeasurable ways! thank you for all of your music, it has had an incredibly positive influence on the direction my life is taking

  • Britlin L.

    Thank you so much for writing this. It’s amazing how it brings peace immediately to me whenever I listen to it on my headphones. This should be in a film score.

  • Sally

    Romantic and beautiful, just like Cambridge. Thoughtful too, cant wait to here the complete piece

  • Dawn Robinson

    Wow, such a beautiful piece for a beautiful place. The cello breaks my heart. My son was lucky enough to take a literature course here and went punting on the river. I can almost feel myself on these banks watching what unfolds. Very inspiring!

  • Margaret Coltman

    Hey – I’m trying to find the music for this for a performance in October – is it available? Please contact me – margaretcoltman at yahoo dot com

About Eric

Eric Whitacre is one of the most popular and performed composers of our time, a distinguished conductor, broadcaster and public speaker. His first album as both composer and conductor on Decca/Universal, Light & Gold, won a Grammy® in 2012, reaped unanimous five star reviews and became the no. 1 classical album in the US and UK charts within a week of release... view full bio