Concerto for Piano and Orchestra

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich

Rental
Performing Ensemble: Piano with Orchestra
Publisher: Merion Music, Inc.
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1986) was commissioned by Carnegie Hall, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the American Symphony Orchestra League, to be premiered at the 1986 meeting of the American Symphony Orchestra League by the Detroit Symphony under Günther Herbig, with the 1985 winner of the Carnegie Hall competition for excellence in the performance of American Music, Marc-André Hamelin, as piano soloist.

The work is in three movements. The first movement begins with a lengthy Lento (slow) section, followed by and Allegro (fast) leading to a cadenza for the piano. Beginning with the initial Lento material, the cadenza incorporates ideas from both the Lento and the Allegro. A second Allegro follows the cadenza and brings the movement to a close. The second movement, a slow movement, is marked Andante misterioso, and the third movement, which begins with solo piano, is marked Allegro con brio.

The quiet theme in muted violins that opens the first movement is the basic idea from which much of the work issues. apart from the purely musical evolution that occurs, I think the whole piece is perhaps best described as a dramatic work in which the piano is the protagonist. Yet, my concerto does not cast the pianist as the prototypical 19th Century “hero” battling the orchestral forces and triumphing through overwhelming virtuosity. for, while the piano is often the dominant voice and most frequently the initiator of musical ideas or dramatic moods, my concerto calls for a blending of forces—a joint exploration, if you will, of the piano soloist and orchestra. The pianist is even asked to merge with various sections of the orchestra at times.

To me, a part of the nobility of the piano is that it can change its color, chameleon-line, to blend with different orchestral colors without losing its special identity. Of all the instruments, the piano is perhaps the most able to be whatever it is asked to be. Apart from the interesting subject of differing pianofortes and their histories, a given piano in the hands of different pianists yields differing results, depending upon what the imagination of the pianist calls for. And, of course, the instrument reflects the vision of the composer, and where one composer sees in the piano a firebrand, another sees a poet. One composer treats the piano as a percussion instrument; another as a singer. Certainly the vast and wonderful piano repertoire explores this remarkable range. And the world of composer-pianists is large enough to embrace Serge Rachmaninoff and Art Tatum.

I particularly relish the irony that, while it most frequently presents itself in “Black and white,” the piano is, in essence, a colorful instrument of imagination and drama, capable of a wide range of roles and moods. At nay rate, this is the vision of the piano that inspired my piece.

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1986) is scored for an orchestra consisting of piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 B( clarinets (one doubling E( clarinet), bass clarinet, 2 bassoon, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (vibraphone, marimba, glockenspiel, piccolo snare drum, tenor drum, bass drum, small and medium suspended cymbals, gong), and strings.

As a token of my greatest respect, it is dedicated to Günther Herbig.

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Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by Carnegie Hall, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the American Symphony Orchestra League.
Composition Date 1986
Duration 24:00
Orchestration Solo Pno.; 3 3 3 3 - 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Str.
Premiere 26th June, 1986. Marc-Andr

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