Extremity of Sky

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra

Melinda Wagner

Performing Ensemble: Piano with Orchestra
Duration: 28:00
Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

Formally, the piece is in many ways quite conventional, consisting of four contrasting sections. The first is in large part gestural, serving as an introduction--a kind of anacrusis--to the following movement; this is more thematic and developmental. The third movement is an adagio, and in the last, I decided to bring back elements from the second movement. Composing a “return” proved to be a most interesting and challenging process. One cannot simply tack on previously heard music; it has to be made to work dramatically and to convey some sense of acquired maturity, and at the same time, closure.

Whenever I hear a work that engages the classical notion of departure and return, I am always struck by a feeling of musical triumph at the point of recapitulation. We hear music whose notes are the same, yet its character has been transformed by the very act of having lived a life through time. I tried to capture this kind of return in the final movement and enhance the transformation by framing familiar music with new sounds. I hope it works! The soloist also experiences a kind of transformation, becoming prominent only gradually over the course of the first two movements, and finally emerging, entirely alone, at the beginning of the third.

My gratitude is many layered. First, I remain indebted to Daniel Barenboim, whose initial and abiding interest in my music has provided the cornerstone of my professional life. I am immeasurably grateful to the Wood Prince family for supporting me in this most important project of my life. Any composer who has spent a lifetime at the keyboard faces the piano concerto with hunger, awe, a sense of the inevitable, and terror! I thank the Wood Prince family for allowing me to face this life goal with the wonderful honor of composing for the finest artists in the world, Emanuel Ax and the members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Thank you for supporting the artwork of our time, for endeavoring to cultivate what is best in human nature: our yearning to be moved.

Additional Information

Commission Created with funds from the Prince Prize for Commissioning Original Work.
Composition Date 2002
Orchestration Solo Pno.; 3(dbl. Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 2 - 4 3 3(B.Tbn.) 1; Timp. 5Perc. Cel. Hp. Str.
Premiere 22nd, 23rd, 24th, 27th May, 2003. Emanuel Ax, piano, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Daniel Barenboim.


I Opening
II Departure
III Prayer-chain
IV Varied Return

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