Scenes from Childhood  (2008) for cello and piano - 15'

-Commissioned by Concert Artists Guild for cellist Soo Bae

-Premiered May 2009 at Symphony Space, NYC

Program Notes

I am sometimes inspired to write music by other pieces of art—be it literature, poetry, or painting…but rarely am I inspired to write a new work by another piece. Scenes from Childhood takes its inspiration from the Kinderszenen of Robert Schumann, but more for the idea of the work as a whole than the music itself. I love the way Schumann captures vivid images in a flash with descriptive and poetic miniatures. The name of the work and the titles of the movements have been taken, but the notes, for the most part, have been left undisturbed.

The piece opens with “Of Foreign Lands and People,” which introduces the sounds of the piece, passing in and out of focus. Some of the movements are concrete depictions, like “Knight of the Hobbyhorse,” where the tempo indication is “stomping around,” or “Frightening,” where the cellist is asked to play uneasy quarter-tones, unaccompanied by the piano. Other movements are less literal, and I imagine childhood as being a time of both clarity and confusion, where thoughts and events drift by in a dreamy vision of reality. Much of the music has passages of “indeterminacy,” which is to say it has improvisation built in so that every performance will be a little different. I also want to capture vivid imagery in miniature (no movement is more than two minutes long) to show a fleeting look at a scene and inner moment from a child’s life, with all of the colors and emotion of those times.

The commission for this work came from Concert Artist Guild for cellist Soo Bae, whom I am lucky to count as a great musician and friend. It was generously supported by Augusta H. Gross and Leslie B. Samuels.


“Cellist Soo Bae joined pianist Reiko Uchida in David Ludwig’s Scenes from Childhood. For this virtuosic compendium of angular melodies and effects that suggested sirens, march rhythms and a touch of Messiaen, Bae shrugged off the piece’s difficulties and emphasized its shapeliness and warmth.”  –The Strad