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Yehudi Wyner

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Piano Concerto “Chiavi in Mano” (2004)
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Soloists and Orchestra
Year Composed
20 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
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Programme Note
Yehudi Wyner Piano Concerto “Chiavi in Mano” (2004)
2006 Pulitzer Prize in Music

Composer Note:

The idea for a piano concerto for the Boston Symphony was instigated by Robert Levin, the great Mozart scholar and pianist. The idea was evidently embraced by BSO Artistic Administrator Tony Fogg and supported by Music Director James Levine.

Much of the concerto was composed during the summer of 2004 at the American Academy in Rome in a secluded studio hidden within the Academy walls. While much of the composing took place far from home, the concerto comes out as a particularly "American" piece, shot through with vernacular elements. As in many of my compositions, simple, familiar musical ideas are the starting point. A shape, a melodic fragment, a rhythm, a chord, a texture, or a sonority may ignite the appetite for exploration. How such simple insignificant things can be altered, elaborated, extended, and combined becomes the exciting challenge of composition. I also want the finished work to breathe in a natural way, to progress spontaneously, organically, moving toward a transformation of the musical substance in ways unimaginable to me when I began the journey. Transformation is the goal, with the intention of achieving an altered state of perception and exposure that I am otherwise unable to achieve.

"Chiavi in mano" — the title of the piano concerto — is the mantra used by automobile salesmen and realtors in Italy: Buy the house or the car and the keys are yours. But the more pertinent reason for the title is the fact that the piano writing is designed to fall "under the hand" and no matter how difficult it may be, it remains physically comfortable and devoid of stress. In other words: "Keys in hand."

—Yehudi Wyner, December 13, 2004

View Full Score - Reduced Orchestration

  • Ensemble
    Boston Symphony Orchestra
    Robert Levin
    Robert Spano
His piano concerto is an expression of the normative aspects of the tradition while also demonstrating his interest in folding in the vernacular which is done frequently in his music. This music proceeds in a ruminative and associative manner that is quirky and quixotic. There is an ambivalence or hesitation, a holding back or a withholding of clarity, an insouciance and double-edged humor. These traits give the music charm and delight, zest and sparkle and display a sonic twinkle in the eye.
Daniel Asia, The Huffington Post,06/05/2014
His works show a deep understanding of what sounds good and is technically efficient. His musical interests range widely. I have heard him discuss insightfully both Monteverdi’s approach to recitative and Frank Sinatra's legato singing. All these qualities come together in the concerto, written during a stay at the American Academy in Rome in 2004. Chiavi in Mano, a term used by car salesmen and real-estate brokers in Italy, translates as "Keys in Hand." This 19-minute, single-movement concerto is run through with American vernacular. Yet the overall language is distinctively modern. Mr. Wyner absorbed the idioms of 12-tone music without practicing the technique strictly.
Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times,31/05/2009
Spook a thoroughbred, see how fast it runs...composer Yehudi Wyner sent a jolt through the Boston Symphony Orchestra...with his world premiere piano concerto, CHIAVI IN MANO. "Chiavi in Mano" - it's a phrase stolen from Italian salesmen: basically, "if you got the keys, you own it." The keys here are both under the soloist's fingers and in the musical suggestiveness, which hints at the work's eventual outcome, but subtly... CHIAVI offers many chances for admiration. From its simple beginning, it expands to larger explorations, all following a thread that comments on previous material and moves quickly on. In one movement...Wyner's CHIAVI brings Ives, the great incorporator of popular idiom, to a new generation.
Keith Powers, Boston Herald,01/01/0001
As the eminent composer-critic Virgil Thomson might have said, Wyner's concerto is a beaut...the piece is full of surprises, but all of them are also inevitable consequences of what has happened before. The allusions - not quotations - range from Baroque briskness through Prokofievian percussive motor rhythms to torch song, jazz, rock, and honky-tonk with washboard accompaniment, all viewed through the lens of a personal, flexible, and highly chromatic musical language...A dynamic pianist himself, [Wyner] composed a piano part that idiomatically lies under the hand...The music is also mindful of an obligation to engage and entertain. Because it has met that obligation in a very brilliant and extrovert way, it can also muse and wonder.
Richard Dyer, Boston Globe,01/01/0001
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