"The virtuosic and endlessly curious cellist Jeffrey Zeigler and I had been looking for an opportunity to work together for years; but between my work in the opera house and his as the principal cellist for quartets like the Kronos, the time, alas, never seemed right," Mark Adamo told The Violin Channel. "And then it was: four orchestras came on board for the commission, and dates — in New York, San Francisco, Houston, ad Manitoba — were set.
Part of the inspiration for "Last Year" came when Adamo had been listening to a recording of Vivaldi's Four seasons, while simultaneously hearing the news of a terrible flood in Houston. He thought that if Vivaldi were alive today and knew what we know now, it would seem almost impossible to compose those scores. Adamo wondered, however, "If Vivaldi was asked to; what might he make?"
Adamo's compositional approach is always: "imagine the piece first, and the music will follow."
"It began with the aforementioned idea; continued with a lot of free-associative sketching in a journal — along the lines of 'What should this piece do? What are its highest and lowest emotional points, and how do they sound?.' This was then developed into a long, multicolored sketch, in which every minute of the piece’s duration, every shift of register and technique, every thematic idea, and every instrumental color were mapped out like an electrocardiogram; and only then did it evolve into the actual pitches and rhythms that the musicians would play and the audience would hear.
"By filtering what so many of us are feeling about the world through the twin screens of the Vivaldi and the Dies Irae, I’m hoping this piece could make it more possible for us to experience, and thus work with, the emotions that we, certainly I, can find powerful to the point of immobilizing.
For inspiration, Adamo had the Emily Dickinson poem taped to his computer monitor:
"Tell all the Truth but tell it slant
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb Surprise"