Piano Concerto

 

This work was commissioned by the Dresdner Sinfoniker with generous support from Athene Records. It was mainly written during the summer of 1999 and is dedicated to the pianist, Andreas Boyde who was the soloist at the first performance, in Dresden in 2000.

The concerto has three movements, fast-slow-fast, which are joined together to make a continuous span of music lasting about thirty minutes. Each movement is loosely related to a musical model from the Baroque – a feature which links it to several of my other pieces around that time.

Perhaps the first question a composer should ask when starting a concerto is “what is the relationship between the soloist and the orchestra in this work?”. I think there are three basic possibilities: dialogue (or contrast, or conflict), dominance (of one by the other) and partnership. This concerto attempts to explore all of these in different ways with one particular relationship dominating in each movement.

The first movement is a toccata of relentless, driving energy. The soloist and the orchestra are engaged in a vigorous dialogue, which sometimes explodes into violent confrontation.

The second movement is the concerto’s calm centre. It is cast in the form of a passacaglia, a musical device of which I am very fond and which I have used in many other pieces. Here, a repeating sequence of chords forms the background to the elaborate decoration in the piano part and, later on, to expressive solos in the woodwind. This concerto is as much a concerto for orchestra as it is a concerto for piano. So the slow movement ends with a cadenza featuring both soloist and orchestra and acting as a dramatic link to the finale.

The last movement is a double fugue, requiring great virtuosity and rhythmic precision from both the soloist and the orchestra – who all work very much as a team throughout. After a dramatic introduction, the angular first subject makes its appearance. It is energetically developed but its climax is unexpectedly and ironically deflated. The second subject is more severe and serious and is first heard surrounded by the sound of bells. After a reference to the movement’s introduction, the two subjects are combined and the concerto ends with an exuberant display of rhythmic energy – the main feature of the entire work.

John Pickard