|Konzert für zwei Klaviere (2007)|
Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra
The "Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra" is a reworking of "CAP-KO", written in 2005. That work was commissioned for the 125th anniversary of Béla Bartók´s birth by five European orchestras: Musica Viva Festival Munich, Suisse Romande, French Radio Philharmonic, Amsterdam´s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. The world premiere of "CAP-KO" was given by pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard in Munich, on January 26, 2006.
I revised the score for two acoustic pianos in 2007, this version ("Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra") was premiered in Cologne on March 9, 2008, by soloists Andreas Grau and Götz Schumacher and the West German Radio Orchestra under the direction of Stefan Asbury.
The five-movement concerto is an homage to Béla Bartók, with specific reference to two important characteristics of Bartók´s music: his frequent use of parallel scales and his fondness for the combination of piano with percussion.
In its original incarnation, this concerto featured only one pianist, with a digital (MIDI) keyboard programmed in such a way that for every note played by the pianist, the computer added one more notes, separated from the original note by intervals specified by the composer. Thus, if the pianist played a fast scale, the audience heard two parallel fast scales. The MIDI program increased the pianist´s virtuosity far beyond what ten fingers are capable of achieving.
It was this technological idea that first gave rise to the work title CAP-KO (Concerto for Acoustic Piano, Keyboard, and Orchestra). The digital piano was the primary soloist, in addition, an acoustic piano was used, in the composer´s words, as part of the orchestra, a kind of “echo chamber”. On the digital keyboard, the coordination of the parallel voices was always 100% precise.
In 2007, I made a fully acoustic version of the work, partly for practical reasons (for instances when the technology was not available) and partly to challenge the soloists to achieve the same degree of precision with four human hands.
About the music
The first movement opens with a trio of snare drums, on the left, the right, and the middle. The pitch produced by the drums varies according to the exact spot where the stick hits the drum. In this way, I composed a three-part “melodic” counterpoint for drums. As the soloists and the orchestra enter, this counterpoint expands in range and becomes highly diversified in timbre. Towards the end of this section, the rapid sixteenth-note runs of the strings make an unmistakable allusion to Bartók by recalling the last movement of the Concerto for Orchestra.
Most of the second movement is dominated by a perpetual parallel motion for two pianos. I use a large number of different scales to generate a high level of kinetic energy. The runs are punctuated by intermittent percussion solos and complemented by orchestral countermelodies moving in long and connected (legato) notes. A more static third movement follows without a break, characterized by sharp rhythmic attacks and an expecially prominent low brass. The tempo gradually increases and the piano parts pick up great rhythmic momentum, reaching a climax toward the end of the movement.
I call the fourth movement: "Bartók accrosses the ocean". This movement is in a slow tempo throughout. The steady chord progressions of the two pianos, proceeding in even eighth-notes, are set against the shorter melodic phrases of the horns and trumpets. The music briefly becomes more agitated as we hear a momentary fortissimo outburst for the full orchestra. Then a quiet piano duo concludes the movement, with a single three-note “farewell” motif from the first trumpet.
The last movement is another mad rush, with the two pianists and the three percussionists in the leading roles. The rhythms are more irregular than before, with offbeat accents and complex alternations between notes and rests adding to the excitement all the way to the end.