Sollima Lamentatio for Cello Solo

Italian composer and virtuoso cellist Giovanni Sollima’s Lamentatio for Cello Solo, performed by Alexander Hersh. Hersh writes about his response to hearing this piece for the first time and about meeting the composer a month later.

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Italian composer and virtuoso cellist Giovanni Sollima’s Lamentatio for Cello Solo

Alexander Hersh, cello
Video by Grittani Creative. Filmed in Guarneri Hall, Chicago, Illinois, and at the Indiana Dunes, summer 2019.
Executive producer: Stefan Hersh
Sound engineer: Christopher Willis

Alexander Hersh writes:

I first learned about Giovanni Sollima’s Lamentatio for Cello Solo from a YouTube video a friend shared with me. My jaw dropped—I was utterly mesmerized. Such imagination, originality, and a vast arsenal of extended techniques. I instantly ordered the music from Italian publisher.

About a month later, I had the privilege of hearing and meeting Giovanni at the 2016 Piatigorsky International Cello Seminar in Los Angeles. He was everything in person that this piece was. His electric personality seemed to transfer to anywhere he went. I remember distinctly the improvisation workshop he led for myself and the other younger cellists taking part in the festival. His uncanny ability to take a group of “conservatory trained” cellists, and in the span of one hour, empower us in a way to think outside of the box, made us all feel like mini rockstars, or better yet, mini Giovanni Sollimas.

During the festival he performed several times—sometimes his own works, but also known Italian baroque cello concertos.

At night he could be found hanging out with the students and other international artists until the wee hours of the night. In the morning, he was often spotted in the hotel lobby bright and early, downing espresso and sporting a leather jacket alongside a bright red cello case.

Never in my life had my fellow 20-something year old compatriots and I, aspired so much to be a 54-year-old Italian man.

I often describe Giovanni Sollima’s Lamentatio to people as “Gregorian chant meets Metallica,” but more than anything, it offers a glimpse into the wild imagination of Giovanni Sollima. It is an evocative and visceral work that goes above and beyond what one might expect of a solo cello piece.