Cello Counterpoint is scored for eight Cellos and can be played by a soloist with the other parts pre-recorded (This tape is available from the Boosey & Hawkes rental library.)
Alternatively, the piece can be played by a Cello Octet. (There are differences in the distribution of parts between the two versions.) The piece is in three movements: fast, slow, fast. The first and last movements are both based on a similar four-chord cycle that moves ambiguously back and forth between C minor and E-flat major. This harmonic cycle is treated extremely freely, particularly in the third movement. The second, slow movement, is a canon in E-flat minor involving, near the end of the movement, seven separate voices.
The piece is a little more than 11 minutes in duration and was co-commissioned by the Koussevitzky Foundation in the Library of Congress, the Royal Conservatory in The Hague and Leiden University, for Cellist Maya Beiser.