Concerto For Piano and Chamber Orchestra
The Concerto for Piano and Chamber Orchestra No. 2 (1991), like so many classical concerti, is permeated by the principle of call-and-response on many levels of the structure in the course of its four movements. Here the principle is extended to interactions within the pocket orchestra, as well as between the soloist and the rest of the ensemble. On a larger scale, the piano plays the role of responder in the first two movements. The orchestra sets forth most of the musical material of the entire piece in the first movement, with the piano offering mostly short, pithy commentary; it eventually blooms in a vigorous cadenza for piano and percussion, which foreshadows the third movement. The second movement, with its extremely restricted orchestral material and remarkable twittering piano solo, feels like an afterbeat response to the first movement. The short, sizzling third movement, an aggressive duet for piano and percussion, serves as an upbeat ícall’ to the last movement, where the orchestra makes its raucous response. The piano, which has been locked in partnership with the percussion for much of the piece, finally achieves a greater degree of independence in a series of remarkable solo passages.
The work is scored for an ensemble almost identical to that of Pre-Pulse Suspended, with the addition of percussion, including a hammered dulcimer. Although the dulcimer plays a quiet role in the work, its soul appears to infuse much of the piano writing, which is alive with oddly voiced tremolos, glissandi, and repeated note passages.
The Concerto, dedicated to the writer Joan Silber, was commissioned by the Shifting Foundation for Speculum Musicae and pianist Aleck Karis. -Eric Moe