Displaced dances : for piano and orchestra
by Elena Kats-Chernin (2000)
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From the CD Works for orchestra. Vol. 4
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This piano concerto was written specifically for Stephanie
McCallum and the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. It was a special
pleasure for me to write for Stephanie, as she has performed many
of my pieces over the years. It is a set of 12 dances that follow
one after the other, like a set of variations but not on any one
theme. Unlike most concertos, the soloist and orchestra are in a
'give and take' situation rather than a classic 'soloist versus
orchestra' battle for supremacy. In my Dances the
orchestra often has the main melody, and the piano emerges from
that into the foreground before receding again. It's almost a
burlesque piece, like a mirrored carousel of slightly twisted
dance styles. These however, are not dances as we usually think
of them. They are based on a series of non-musical gestures -
sometimes quite tiny - or musical cells, rather than traditional
dance genres, as the titles demonstrate:
Some movements are densely orchestrated (1 and 5) but others are quite spare (2 and 3) and one is a pure piano solo (7). Each dance has its own specific harmonic world and most of them have a clear tonal centre throughout, most obviously so in No.9, a kind of seven-legged tango. There is a strong emphasis on extreme registers - No.8 is low and No. 10 is a very high rondo.
Each of the movements also contains a different challenge for the soloist: in No.2, for example, it is note repetition; in No.4, stamina; No.6, arpeggios; No.10, brilliant percussiveness and in No.12 fast octaves. Overall, I was aiming to create as many contrasts as possible in the writing.
What was most important to me was creating an overall feeling of displacement, as if one was lost in a strange city. This seems a theme of much of my work, playing with the familiar to create something new and creating a sense of musical déjà-vu where the past becomes new, and yet is oddly recognisable, like a half-remembered dream.
Dances of migration, loss and discovery - all up, it's a strangely Australian type of concerto.
Elena Kats-Chernin, 2000
Instrumentation: Piccolo, 2 flutes, 3 oboes, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contra-bassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, percussion (3 players), harp, solo piano, strings.
Duration: 25 min.
Contents note: 1. Spin the wheel -- 2. Dance of the moral finger -- 3. Dance of reduced material -- 4. Dance of the missing links -- 5. Dance of the skyscrapers -- 6. Dance of naive thoughts -- 7. Dance of smoothing the edges -- 8. Chthonic melody -- 9. Dance in seven-four -- 10. Country dance -- 11. Dance of the intervals -- 12. Dance of octaves.
- In the form/style of: Concertos
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