Composed in 2017 following a commission from the Orchestre Royal de Chambre de Wallonie, the Piano Concerto is written in three movements.
The orchestra consists of strings, a wind quintet, a trumpet and a trombone. It is important to note that the piano plays a contrasting role throughout the Concerto. At times master of the game, at other times equal to the other instruments, and at other times struggling with the orchestra. The first movement is the most developed. A solemn introduction by the orchestra ends with a short piano cadenza that brings the fast part. The soloist then launches into an ostinato which is gradually joined by the various members of the orchestra. New motifs appear. They combine to form a polyphonic and rhythmic framework that is increasingly complex but always perceptible to the listener. This superimposition of motifs results in a climax which is followed by a long cadenza by the soloist. At the end of this cadenza, a new theme appears, which will generate the entire rest of the movement. This new part develops and leads to the varied return of the solemn introduction from the beginning to a virtuoso conclusion.
The second movement opens with a short, meditative flute cadenza based on a motif that will reappear later. The violins and violas then play a rhythmic and obsessive accompaniment while the cellos enunciate an expressive melody. This part is taken up again, with the double bass reinforcing the cellos, and the piano joins them by spelling out a few notes in the high notes, like a dreamlike improvisation based on the flute’s motive. He thus dialogues with the cellos and the double bass while the other strings accompany them. At the end of this section, the brass and woodwinds enter to make the transition to the central “Allegro” part. Here, the piano takes the lead with fast sixteenth-note strokes. The orchestra gradually builds up various motifs, increasing the tension through multiple harmonic changes and colourful orchestration. This is followed by a lyrical orchestral interlude, which is joined by the piano after some time. The movement ends in a relatively peaceful atmosphere, with the soloist stating one of the main motifs in long values (technical augmentation procedure).
The third movement begins with a rhythmic motif looped and played on the double bass. Various elements are added to this motif until the first theme appears to be played on the bassoon and then by other instruments. The piano colours the discourse with a chord in the bass repeated several times. Then it is the piano that takes up the main theme. At the end of this sequence, the orchestra brings a second theme on which the piano plays a virtuoso counterpoint in triple eighth notes. The rest of the movement develops all these motives, both main and secondary, to a brilliant final conclusion.
The world premiere took place in Brussels on 30 November 2018 as part of the International Ars Musica Festival, with Frank Braley as soloist, with the orchestra under the direction of the composer.
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