CONFESSIONAL for violoncello and orchestra (2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 French horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, 1 tuba, 1 harp, 2 percussion, strings: 8, 7, 6, 6, 2.) 1997. Commissioned by Shauna Rolston with funds from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council. 18 minutes. Score and parts available through PROMETHEAN EDITIONS.



Confessional is based on the chant "Ton Nymphona Sou Vlepo...." ("I behold your bridal chamber my Lord, and I wear not the proper vestments to enter") sang in Greek Orthodox churches on the eve of Palm Sunday. The chant is stated twice in its entirety at the outset by the cello and reappears in various guises throughout the composition. While the intervallic and melodic content of this chant and its constant metamorphosis account for most of the melodic and harmonic material, it is the literal and metaphorical content of the text which has been the driving force for the formal unfolding of the composition. The soloist leads the orchestra away from the stability of the home environment symbolized by the chant and its supporting drone into an adventure full of unexpected turns. The original language of the chant—the musical language, that is—is being constantly translated and modified to ascribe meaning to, and become meaningful within, the newly discovered and increasingly bizarre soundscapes, as the voyaging soloist and the orchestra constantly distance themselves from home. At the same time the chant acts like a compass, an inner voice, always pointing the way back. The voyage itself is full of contradictions; there is transcendence and banality, forward drive and nostalgia (particularly at the point where the chant morphs into the well-known theme from Brahms' Third Symphony) complexity and utter simplicity, usually all within a few measures from each other. The deeper meaning of the text, the ability to see, feel and desire transcendence pitted against a sense of impotence in realizing such lofty a pursuit, gives the body of the composition its necessary psychological truth which over the years has become the only means of establishing musical continuity in my work. This entrenchment between opposites reaches its climax at the very end of the work. The cello soloist and some other solo instruments of the orchestra literally ride on top of a long slow fugal exposition of the chant by the strings in independent rhythmic and melodic configurations. The tension is eventually resolved by the soloist who literally 'shuts-off' the orchestra at the point where in a textbook concerto situation the cadenza would normally take place. Instead of a candenza, the soloist reinstates in resignation the first phrase of the chant, this time without the accompanying drone. The safety and stability of the drone, the dogma or backbone of a certain belief system, has now been abandoned in favour of personal communion and the constriction and humility which come with it. The reinstatement of the chant by the soloist is no longer a credo as in the beginning. It is a confessional, singing to the words "I see your bridal chamber my lord...." with no proper vestments to conclude the musical undertaking.

Premiere performance: October 25, 1998 by Shauna Rolston and the CBC Radio Orchestra under Mario Bernardi. Avison Concert Series, Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, Vancouver, BC.


But the program justified itself with...the premiere of a ravishing Canadian work, Christos Hatzis' Confessional for cello and orchestra, featuring cellist Shauna Rolston. The piece represents a series of evolutions in faith and is profoundly beautiful, sensuous and full of contrast, with a radiant (and difficult) part for the cello. Rolston, as precise as she was fearless, was amazing, and so was the orchestra in a role that shimmers with exotic colours. How often do you hear a piece of new music and want to rehear it again right away? Lloyd Dykk, THE VANCOUVER SUN (Canada)

Shauna Rolston's performance of Christos Hatzis' Confessional for Cello and Orchestra (2001) was exceptional. Her intensity was equaled by this emotive journey. Based on the Greek Orthodox chant “Ton Nymphona Sou Vlepo”, this work carefully and effectively metamorphoses the chant through juxtapositions and derivations which culminate in a very personal and touching statement at the completion of the work. Jessica Agrell-Smith, DISCOURSES IN MUSIC. Volume 3 Number 2 (Winter 2001-2).

All Things Must Pass. The EYE music staff looks back at the definitive musical moments of 2001.

Shauna Rolston leaves no neck un-goosebumped performing Christos Hatzis' intense Confessional at Massey Hall, Nov. 22. Mike Doherty. EYE Magazine (CANADA)

The centrepiece of the concert was cellist Shauna Rolston's rendition of Confessional by the Greek-Canadian composer Christos Hatzis. This ambitious work for cello and orchestra is a meditation on a Byzantine chant entitled "I see your bridal chamber, my Lord, and I wear not the  proper vestments to enter". Its musical language is exceedingly eclectic,  ranging from complex textures and exotic-sounding tonalities to an  unaccompanied recapitulation of the chant tune with which the cello concludes the piece. Along the way, there is every manner of invention, including a brief episode  in jazz rhythms. One might expect the jazzy bit to sound out of place in a piece like this, but the work's organic integrity never falters. Confessional was written for Rolston, so it's not surprising that she plays it with complete authority, not to mention consummate feeling. The orchestral work was pleasing as well, assured and idiomatic. Despite the  music's relatively "modern" sound, Monday's audience applauded the performance warmly. Richard Todd, reviewer for the OTTAWA CITIZEN (Canada) November 2002.

There are no superlatives adequate to apply to Shauna Rolston nowadays. The Canadian cellist has gone from strength to strength since she eclipsed rival Ofra Harnoy in the early 1990's and this recent CBC Records release continues the procession of excellent work...Confessional by Christos Hatzis, based on a Byzantine chant, is another superb work from this composer. Fluid lines caress the listener so that the ending seems to come all too soon... John S. Gray, WHOLENOTE Magazine (Canada) April 2003.

You cannot listen to Hatzis' "Confessional" without getting goosebumps. Rolston is at the top of her game on this one. listener review.

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