Notturno is a virtuoso piece evoking the lyrical world of Italian music. Its shape recalls concert arias, "etudes de concert" and salon pieces creations of a bygone world that I still hold in great esteem. I remember the great care and attention that Piatigorsky and Heifetz lavished on such pieces and some of the seemingly effortless charm of that genre has found its way into this work.
The piece has a subtext. It's about the role music plays in the life of a musician and the role we musicians play (must play?) in life. It's about musicians first discovering the wonder of music and their own unique voice. Then, of course, there's the profession: the concerts, gigs, the routine, and the wear and tear that can lead you to ask, "Why am I carrying on with all this trilling and arpeggiating?" But, we play what we must play with excellence and commitment, even if it drives us nearly over the edge. The great part is, if we have the chance to take a little breath, we discover that the wonder never goes away.
Notturno was written for the American flutist Paula Robison and in tribute to Paul Renzi, who was for 50 years first/ principal flutist of the San Francisco Symphony.
Michael Tilson Thomas
The original version of Notturno, for flute, harp, and string quintet, was given its first performance by Paula Robison on 10 April 2005 at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York City.
The version for flute and piano was given its first performance on 15 September 2006 at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York City, Paula Robison, flute and Ken Noda, piano.