Three Pieces for Pianopiano (2010)
|Commission||Music Accord, New York|
|Premiere||December 3, 2010; Mainz, Germany; Jonathan Biss, piano|
The music of these solo piano pieces reflects the composer’s desire to explore the legacy of the piano music of three of his favorite composers – Scriabin, Debussy and Ravel – not by stylistic imitation, but by extensions and transformations of their collective harmonic palette into his own musical language.
The first piece, Caprice, takes the meaning of the title literally in that a succession of four quite distinct musical ideas are frequently juxtaposed, reordered and elaborated. Once the four musical characters are clearly established, the speed at which the juxtapositions and reordering occur increases, as does the degree of transformation until the final section is a “capricious”, unpredictable, faster succession of the original ideas that, nevertheless, remain easily recognizable.
The central piece, Aubade, is marked “very slow, quiet, vague with a feeling of indecision” and is in “essence” a condensed, harmonic reservoir of the two outer movements that, in many different ways, draw upon its overtly-stated and subtly-implied harmonies. As such it is a harmonic “map” which recalls fundamental elements of Caprice and anticipates the underlying structures of Arabesque.
Arabesque is built upon a series of rotations of pitch successions each extending its register until the entire keyboard is engaged. Every individual pitch of the rotations is swiftly reiterated (martellato a due mani) and is always preceded by a group of “grace notes” played as fast as possible and invariably staccato (secco) akin to a snare drum flam. These playing techniques coupled with demanding tempi and markings such as “relentless” and “restless” result in virtuosic pianism.
This work is dedicated, in admiration and appreciation, to Jonathan Biss whose live and recorded performances of the piano repertoire are a constant source of inspiration.