The Concerto for Piano Trio first came to me in a noisy van several miles from pen and paper in July of 2007. Its opening fifty bars, virtually unchanged from their present form, were swiftly notated in short score on manuscript paper and subsequently shelved along with a variety of other brief musical ideas. Upon being commissioned to compose a triple concerto, I returned to the sketch and extrapolated from it a first movement, then added two more to complete the cycle.
The concerto begins on a note of tranquility, as the soloists introduce the main theme under a pedal point on A. Gradually its mists dissipate as the music enters a more animated section; the two themes continue to develop in alternation throughout the movement. A return to the mood of the opening is again broken into by livelier music, this time leading to a new theme featuring an English horn solo. Once again the animated music returns, this time reaching a climax before subsiding into a recapitulation of the opening theme in full in the guise of a sentimental waltz.
The second movement is a flurry of virtually unbroken activity, opening with a theme in fast running notes that, after a brief outburst from the orchestra, turns into nervous convulsions over which the soloists develop a new, tarantella-like motive. Toward the end the tarantella motive is transformed into a receding march. If the first movement's flowing motion represented a pastoral landscape, the second movement is more reminiscent of a bustling metropolis.
The finale, a passacaglia (a set of continuous variations over a recurring ground bass), is based upon a somber twelve-bar tune introduced by the basses. The solo violin enters over this with a declamatory variation that soon turns sorrowful with the entrance of the piano and 'cello. As the music gains momentum and power, one has the feeling of inexorable, stately motion; a grandioso climax for the full orchestra is followed directly by the code, which transforms the passacaglia theme into a kind of jig before the music breaks from the form altogether to conclude the concerto with a flourish.
Despite the landscapes I have suggested countryside for the first movement, city for the second, mountain for the third the concerto does not have any extramusical program or narrative, except that which is understood by the listener. It does, however, incorporate elements of a variety of musical styles and traditions from the medieval period to the present day.
26 April 2008
East Texas Symphony Orchestra
Per Brevig, conductor