A New Repertoire
This first precondition was facilitated by, among other things, one of those happy accidents that often likes to accompany success and vigorous initiative. Anyone who has followed the history of the Twelve Cellists even casually must know the authentic anecdote about the fifteen-year-old daughter of a composer who was hitchhiking her way through Berlin in rainy weather, and was brought to the very door of her house by someone well acquainted with her address, and with the prominent figure residing there. By way of thanks, her father composed a piece for the cello group of the Philharmonic Orchestra: thus came into being in three installments one of the works that have come into the permanent repertory of the Twelve, also becoming one of the most beloved works of its "inventor": 'Blues, Espanola and Rumba Philharmonica' for twelve solo cellos by Boris Blacher, a three-part dance suite that pays an avant-garde visit to three passionate centers of the dance: Afro-American in the USA, Spain and South America.
Further extensions of the repertoire came about through commissions. Here, both of the unequal cities then sharing the burdens and honors of a German capital, were notably prominent. Confident of their Europe status, each of them commissioned works from a neighboring western nation, namely France. Berlin was the first. The Festival management requested a piece from Jean Francaix, the original, self-willed neo-classicist, who rejected artistic schools and stylistic constraints. In his 15-minute 'Morning Serenade', he had been inspired by George Sand's letters from abroad. He promised a great deal: "the finale of my 'aubade' has the instruments droning - just like the cars in a 24-hour run from Le Mans, my town of birth - so loudly that even deaf listeners will applaud, spurred on by the sight of cello bows moving at lighting speed, and by the demonic faces of the twelve virtuosos." Here, the theatrical aspect of music. The premiere performance of the cheerful and high-spirited Serenade took place on September 30th 1975 in Berlin's New National Gallery - their first evening-long concert before a local audience.
Bonn engaged lannis Xenakis, the rationalistic sound-magician, who, of Greek origins, but born in Rumania, has made Paris his adopted home. In his "8-minute thriller" (Wolfgang Stresemann), this architect, mathematician, and composer calls for nearly every effect that can be produced by cellists in terms of tone quality and teamwork. Virtuosity is required on all levels: technically, in the comprehension of the whole, as well as in terms of listening and musical response. The premiere took place on the 20th of November 1976 in Bonn, in the presence of Walter Scheel, then President of the Federal Republic. Additional works followed. In 1975, Michael Braunfels, the Cologne composer, wrote his 'Symposium' for the Twelve, in 1976 Marcel Rubin composed his 'Concertino' to a commission from the Vienna Festival, and Helmut Eder composed his 'Melodia-Ritmica' for Salzburg. Günter Bialas' 'Assonances' was the product of a commission from the Schwetzing Palace Festival, and for the Lucerne Festival, Rudolf Kelterborn developed his 'Scene for 12 Cellists', while Wolfgang Fortner turned in 1983 back to the ancient genre of the madrigal. The Twelve's first appearance in the GDR was associated with Udo Zimmermann's 'Canticum Marianum', performed at the Dresden Music Festival.
A rich repertoire, and a modern one: in this respect, the Twelve enjoy advantages even when compared with the dramatic impact of the assembled Philharmonic. Each anniversary of the Twelve has brought something new. In 1992, on the occasion of his 40th birthday - and the Cellists' 20th - Wolfgang Rihm presented his 'Augenblick' ('Moment'). In 1997, Brett Dean's birthday greeting arrived in the form of a musical score, his 'Twelve Angry Men'.