Cello Counterpoint (2003) is scored for eight cellos and can be played by a soloist with the other parts pre-recorded or by a Cello Octet. It is in three movements, fast, slow fast.
The first and last movements are both based on a similar four chord cycle that moves ambiguously back and forth between c minor and Eb major. This harmonic cycle is treated extremely freely however, particularly in the third movement. As a matter of fact, what strikes me most about these movements is that they are generally the freest in structure of any I have ever written. The second, slow movement, is a canon in Eb minor involving, near the end of the movement, seven separate voices.
Cello Counterpoint is one of the most difficult pieces I have ever written, calling for extremely tight, fast moving rhythmic relationships not commonly found in the cello literature.
The piece is a little more than 11 minutes in duration and was co-commissioned by the Koussevitzky Foundation in the Library of Congress, the Royal Conservatory in The Hague and Leiden University, for cellist Maya Beiser.
© Steve Reich