Betsy Jolas has been a friend for many years. For a long time we kept meeting at concerts - there are few musicians one meets as often at concerts in Paris. She was always very warm and kind to me, even before I had played any of her music. Over the years we have become close and I have learned to know her music quite well. The more I have listened to it, the more I have discovered wonderful masterpieces of stunning variety.


Betsy has written many pieces for the cello; alone, with piano and with ensembles. The first time I played her music was in 1998 at the Beauvais Cello Festival, the piece was Episode Cinquième for solo cello. She wrote a piece called A Fancy for Anssi in 2010 as part of the Mystery Variations for my 50th birthday. I also later played her Quatuor V and Quatre pièces en marge for cello and piano.


For a long time I had been wondering what I could ask her to write for me that would have a special meaning. Some years ago I finally got an idea: There exist two beautiful pieces for cello and string orchestra which are so short that they are difficult to program alone. These pieces are Toru Takemitsu's Scene and Witold Lutoslawski's Grave. I thought that if Betsy would write a third piece, the three could be programmed either as a Triptych or separately, making the repertoire for cello and String orchestra at once much richer. Happily Betsy liked the idea and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra has now programmed the first performance of the whole triptych.


Almost like a reverse birthday gift, at her own 90th birthday party, Betsy showed me the first sketches of Side Roads. She finished  it 10 months later, on July 17, 2017.


Side Roads is a piece of about 18 minutes, with a string orchestra of 6-5-5-3-2. I will give the first performance in Örebro, Sweden on October 18, 2018 with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Gérard Korsten.


Just after finishing Side Roads, Betsy started writing a piece for cello and piano for myself and Nicolas Hodges. We will give the premiere of this piece, called Femme le soir, at the Reid Hall in Paris on the 3rd of December 2018 in a portrait concert of Betsy's music. These are the movements of Femme le soir: Lulling - Songeries - Shall we... - Et toi, la bas...? - Mots de sable - Qui parle? - Sing Maria! - Bonjour.

Anssi Karttunen 15 May, 2018

Betsy Jolas

photo © Pascal Dusapin

photo © Pascal Dusapin

photo © MvB

photo © MvB

photo © Pascal Dusapin

photo © MvB

First pages of "Side Roads", September 3rd 2017

Last page of "Side Roads"19.7.2017

Betsy explaining "Side Roads"  to Anssi 19.7.2017

Anssi Karttunen playing music by Betsy Jolas:


15.7.2016: Quatuor V, Domaine Forget, Quebec, Canada

22.2.2017: Quatre pieces en marge, Tirana, Albania (with Florent Boffard)

22.4.2017: Quatre pieces en marge, Reid Hall, Paris (with Nicolas Hodges)

5.10.2017: Episode cinquiéme, Nantes, France

7.10.2017: Episode cinquiéme, Philharmonie, Luxembourg

26.10.2017: Episode cinquiéme, UCDavis, California

4.11.2017: Episode cinquiéme, Centro Cultural Kirchner, Buenos Aires

18.10.2018: Side Roads, Örebro, Sweden

3.12.2018: Portrait of Betsy Jolas with Nicolas Hodges at the Reid Hall, Paris