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Piano Concerto



first performance: February 15, 1993

venue: Curtis Institute, Philadelphia

performer(s): David Horne, piano- Orchestra of the Curtis Institute- conductor, Rudolfo Fisher

instrumentation: 2(I=afl,II=picc).2.2(II=bcl).1.dbn- vib/xyl/crot/glsp/3susp.cym(small,med,large)/tam-t/2timp- cel-harp-piano solo-strings


recording on previous page: BBC Symphony Orchestra, David Horne, piano, David Porcelijn, conductor. March 12, 2004


programme note:

The Piano Concerto (1992) is in three movements, roughly adhering to a traditional fast-slow-fast structure, and lasting around twenty minutes. The first movement, rhapsodic in nature, alternates between two contrasting ideas, one lyrical and sustained, the other aggressive and rhythmically strident. The opening of the work displays an example of the type of acoustic interplay that occurs throughout the entire piece. The opening figure in the piano is "sustained" by string harmonics, gently fading in and out around the piano’s harmonies. In this respect, nearly all of the orchestral material is derived from the piano, both in terms of pitch, but also in terms of timbre. Similarly, in the more violent sections, the piano’s rougher attacks are matched and echoed by more strident orchestral sounds. In addition, the use of simple timbral modifications in the orchestra, such as harmonics and mutes, is often used to subtly detune the piano, albeit not in a systematic way.

The role of the orchestra is in a constant state of flux, at times adding resonance to the piano, and at others, taking the piano’s motivic suggestions and developing them. The opening of the middle movement is the exception to this rule, where for once the orchestra (without the string section in this movement) introduces a thematic idea. In this case, a simple melody which, although reappearing in various guises through to the end of the whole piece, is never actually taken up by the piano. The final movement starts as something of a scherzo, the thematic ideas growing out of repeated notes, gradually increasing in momentum. This idea is really just a more energetic manifestation of the opening of the first movement, which is similarly anchored around repeated notes, and indeed, the work’s opening is recalled near the end of the piece. It is, however, the movement’s faster music that takes over as the movement rushes to a close.

David Horne, March 2004

selected press reviews:

"Most remarkable on the programme was David Horne’s Piano Concerto, written in 1992, when he was 21. A Proms concerto debutant at 19, he was the soloist in this, the work’s belated British premiere. His cool virtuosity was thrilling, but so was that of the piece. Though essentially a youthful esprit, it is a lesson in economical construction. It is not too much to say that all three (fast-slow-fast) movements are built from three notes — F sharp, G sharp and A — quietly intoned by the soloist at the start and picked up in harmonic haloes by vibraphone and strings. The scoring is unyouthfully restrained, but has a sensuousness that is most apparent in the slow movement’s carillon figurations for piano, harp, celeste and tuned percussion. The solo writing is at once showy and spare, with a crispness poised between Scarlatti and Stravinsky. The patent musicality on display was altogether refreshing."

Paul Driver, The Sunday Times