Conductor's score and parts on hire
for solo piano and orchestra
The Piano Concerto is curiously named, consisting of five short movements and lasting around fourteen minutes. The idea of a concerto emerged during a conversation with the pianist, John Tilbury, and the conductor, Ilan Volkov. A couple of years passed and then a BBC commission materialised. The plan from the outset was to compose a piece similar in scale and character to Stravinskys Movements (1958-59). I used much the same instrumentation, adding horns and an extra cello. The work inevitably found its own form.
One of the assignments I give my students is to write a melody which somehow makes its escape. In my longer works of recent years, I have attempted to break free from a circumscribed, if enlarged, harmonic language. The short piano pieces of the early years, in seizing the moment, achieved this by default. The point was made directly. The language was transparent: both artless and elusive.
The second movement of the Piano Concerto captures the immediacy of the brief solo pieces, taking pairs of notes, from bar 8 onwards; extending and dissolving them. The first seven bars repeat a 12-note row four times, echoing the concern of the first movement with 12-note material. The bulk of the first movement is a 32-bar chorale, juxtaposing complementary segments from a chromatic field (to use a Feldmanesque term). The third movement runs the gamut of all my techniques: harmonic, rhythmic and melodic. Opening with sprightly canonic material, using a mode of limited transposition, it bursts through to the totally chromatic from bar 10 (the violin melody in bars 17-18 is 12-note). Following the return of canonic writing, the pianist plays a bluesy melody (from bar 58) which is also 12-note. This is reinforced orchestrally until bar 121. A 12-note chord for wind and brass builds up from bars 122 to 125, resolving to bright E major at bar 126.
The fourth movement has something of the atmosphere of the second. Its chromaticism and range, and its regular dotted-crotchet swing, make reference to Morton Feldmans entirely monophonic Piano Piece 1952. The upbeat fifth movement is an arrangement of a neglected piano piece: music that is already as free as a bird.