page one of the Snare Drum part from Piano Concerto No.1 - 1st Mvmt.

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Full details

Edgy, tuneful, humorous, rhythmic, dramatic and tonal - everything I think you could want in a piano concerto. In each movement the piano starts as just part of the orchestra then gradually emerges. The first movement has an angular and a smooth theme that interplay (both heard together in woodwind in the first two bars). The slow movement has a rich dialogue between piano and solo viola. The third movement is slightly more episodic but reuses the smooth theme from the first movement with a twist, culminating in a ripping finale.

This piece has received many positive comments.

I composed this first movement in May 2015. The other two movements are available in the related scores.

The whole concerto was composed between May and September 2015.

There were many techniques I tried in this piece, such as dovetailing one instrument into another (e.g. solo violin fades out whilst solo flute fades in on the same note), percussion to help transition between sections, large dynamic contrasts, sudden changes of texture, blending of sections with sustaining instruments (particularly brass), anticipating the chord of the next bar by having it arrive early in some instruments (gives a feeling of push, especially with a crescendo) etc. The first movement is based on two themes, an angular one and a smooth one, both heard together in shortened version right at the start. The final movement is mostly based on them too, but slightly altered (deliberately half remembered) and then taking parts of those themes and running off in new directions with them. The slow movement was more about the texture between solo strings and piano and I tried to get tension with rapid modulation and mixing duplets against triplets (and similar combinations). Likewise the outer movements (especially the last) uses sextuplets against straight rhythms in the piano to pull the rhythm around and allow "almost" clashes which would sound too rough if explicit but just add tension when spread out rhythmically. All 3 movements start with the piano as part of the orchestra, only gradually coming into prominence. Even there I liked to give the orchestra more of a role than it usually gets in piano concertos. I particularly like to have the piano almost disappear in the maelstrom to then emerge out of it.

I was quite pleased with the sound of the piano because when I started this I had no idea if I would be able to write a “virtuoso” line for a pianist. I think it is all playable (though beyond my skill) as I played most of it in (slowly) on a midi keyboard, so the fingering appears possible. There are quite a few leaps but nothing more than famous composers of often performed concertos ask of their soloists!

Attempting to write the mini cadenza in the 1st movement nearly scared me off as I initially thought that would be beyond me. I discovered all I needed to aid composition was the bare themes written out on a temporary stave as a construction guide. Then it was much easier to see how to tweak them (i.e. both pulling the timing around and repeating short passages transposed) and to decorate them in a piano copy in the staves underneath (then delete the music in the temporary stave of course). So it turned out to be the easiest bit to write after all, much to my surprise.

7 minutes
Modern classical music and Classical music

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