Piano Concerto

Richard Wernick

Duration: 00:30:30
Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

The composition of my Piano Concerto grew quite naturally out of my long association with Lambert Orkis. We have been professional colleagues and close friends for many years now, starting with the numerous concerts we performed together with the Penn Contemporary Music Players at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1981 Mr. Orkis commissioned my Piano Sonata, which I completed in 1982 and which he subsequently recorded for Bridge Records. It was the first piece I had composed for piano alone since my student days. It?s by far the longest piece I have written, and probably the most difficult. But it is hard to associate Lambert Orkis with easy-to-play miniatures. The performances he gave were truly brilliant, not only technically, but musically and emotionally. He understood precisely how this musical witch?s brew of anger, savagery, lyricism, and unabashed sentiment was put together, what its musical antecedents were, and how to make it all appear more coherent than it probably is. Somehow the notion of collaborating on a full-size concerto was inevitable.

Once I have completed a work and moved on to the next one, I develop instant amnesia. Whether it?s a simple matter of clearing my brain to make room for the next set of musical problems, I really can?t say, but it does happen, almost every time. One of the few aspects of composition that I never forget, however, is a sense of place. I can remember almost measure by measure and section by section where I was, and what the surrounding circumstances were, while I was composing.

In the case of the Piano Concerto I wrote the first movement in Jerusalem between the end of May and the beginning of July of 1989. I was living in a small apartment near the Islamic Museum, and at that time of year the smell of honeysuckle and rosemary is particularly overwhelming. I can evoke those aromas at will, as well as the intensity of the light in a locale high above the hills of the Judean desert. For me, Jerusalem, despite all the tensions that exist there, is the most beautiful city in the word, as well as the physical and spiritual center of the universe. It is the one city in which I feel completely at home.

I composed the major part of the second movement in a setting that could hardly be more diametrically opposed: Walcott, Vermont, in my friend Mario Davidovsky?s converted barn that sits amidst ninety acres of undisturbed meadow and woodland in one of the most beautiful and peaceful areas of far northern New England. I began in the last week of July and finished at home, in Media, Pennsylvania, in the first week of September. One glance at the score evokes for me the muted light of late summer, the sound of the small creek emptying into the pond outside the studio, and the antics of two silly geese that made the pond the summer home.

The third movement took the most time. It was written at home in Media, amidst the distractions usually associated with home, heath, and the necessity of earning a living by honest work. The final pages were completed on January 20, 1990.
The first movement "Fantasia: Tintinnabula Academiea Musciae" (Bells of the Academy of the Music), is based on the bell signal I wrote for the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, former home of The Philadelphia Orchestra. This is the signal that exhorts people to take their seats before concerts and after intermission. It marks my debut and farewell performance as a carillonneur. This movement is dedicated to Stephen Sell, then executive director of The Philadelphia Orchestra, who was in good part responsible for my composing the new bell signal. Steve died of lung cancer just a few weeks before this movement was completed.

The title of the second movement ??the dream they smile and the kiss they whisper?? is a line from the poem ?Ball of Sun? by Bernard Jacobson, program annotator and musicologist of The Philadelphia Orchestra. I did a setting of this poem for Jan DeGaetani, that most remarkable of singers, my dear friend of many, many years, who had hoped, in the face of incredible odds, to record a second collection of American songs. Jan died of leukemia only two weeks after this movement was completed; it is based on fragments of that song, and is dedicated to her.

The third movement, "R

Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by the Hechinger Foundation, for Lambert Orkis and the National Symphony Orchestra, Mistislav Rostropovich, Music Director.
Composition Date 1989-90
Orchestration Solo Pno.; 3(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3 3(Cbsn.) - 4 3 4 1; Timp. 4Perc. Hp. Str.
Premiere February 7th, 1991. Lambert Orkis, piano, National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Mstislav Rostropovich, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, DC.


I. Fantasia: "Tintinnabula Academiae Musicae"
II. "...the dream they smile and the kiss they whisper..."