Piano Concerto no.3 - 2018
duration 27 minutes

I. Joyfully - playfully   II. Rich - intense - broad   III. Defiantly - with a gush

Begun in 2017 this work paused for several substabtial periods before finally asserting its own momentum in the later part of 2018. I was initially concerned that its opening was too close to a Dumbarton Oaks. I seem to have persisted so we will see...

Like its two sisters, I intend this concerto to be "public music" - for enjoyment - to sparkle and to move, to dance and to sing, not to provoke or challenge. Its sound world is accessible and instant (I hope not crassly, or superficially so). Throughout it plays particularly on polytonality, both of the jaunty and distorting sorts.

Scored for a chamber orchestra it uses a traditional three movement structure, but with the two outer movments themselves also having (related) internal slow sections.

The first movement enters in perky mode, snippets of out of tune-ness flitting and pinging around, "wonkily polluting" familiar figurations. A more "earnest" section leads eventually to a slow interlude where the smearing polytonality is reminiscent of Dali-esque watches. The playfulness resumes but quickly mingles with the earnest music to whip up a contrapuntal, developmental storm. Eventually poise is regained when the opening material reappers, assuming a Bach-aria like quality. A second slow section acts as a bridge into an extended cadenza, before a final throw-away reprise of the opening concludes matters.

The slow movement has a rich, intense quality, with the piano often decorating the musical landscpae with arabesque rather than sitting centre-stage. The tonality is constantly smudged and strained, with all parts refusing to line-up properly. The structure loosely follows the Romanza form, with stiller outer sections surrounding a more moody, troubled central section whose final reprise allows a brief ecstatic moment of sublimation or transfiguration before the dream dissipates into the shadows. (During its composition a dear uncle fell slowly to the terrors of dementia - this movement both "hears" with his "distorted, numbing ears", and yet proudly affirms his humanity in the face of the falling darkness).

The finale reworks material from a song composed 16 years before. It opens with a defiant dancingness which "will not wait"! More strident material quickly dissolves into a renewed playfulness and, in turn, a bustlingly serious passage. The slow music from the 1st movment reappears but goes a different way, suffering several blasts of shivering, chill wind. A reawakening leads to a pomposo maestoso tutti and into a development-reprise of the earlier material's three main ideas, concluding in a tiny snatch of breathy waltz. A grinding steamroller cranks the music, Pacific 231-like, into the coda - a runaway scherzando that scampers off over the hill.

Scoring: 2 Flts, 2 Obs, 2 Clts, 2 Bsns, 2 Hrns, Tpt, Solo Pno, Str

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