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Concerto for Piano and Wind

Kevin Volans: Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments

My prime concerto when writing this piece was to allow the piano as much resonance as possible. This led me to adopt a simplified harmonic language, with plenty of superimposed major and minor triads, giving the piece a somewhat early twentieth-century sound.

There are also, however, two quite African characteristics in the piece. I decided to treat the orchestra like a vast panpipe ensemble, where each instrument is treated as an equal (and frequently opposite) partner of its neighbour. The instruments are often interlocked - one part complementing the other in several different ways - the simplest example being when one instrument is silent while the other plays, and they play alternate single notes. The piano and orchestra are also often interlocked: the piano part is on the whole meaningless without the orchestral part and vice versa. There are virtually no solos for the orchestral instruments ad few for the piano.

Secondly, the whole piece is constructed around the ration of 4:3. It was pointed out to me (after the fact) that this is very common rhythm in African. There are passages in which the piano plays a pattern in fours against the orchestra in threes. Later in the piece there are 'walking' passages where the orchestra plays four against three and the piano plays three against four in their respective parts, the one sounding a quaver later than the other. Most of the consecutive tempos have a 4:3 relationship (with slight adjustments). I was surprised when the piece was finished to find it was one of my most conventional works to date.

I wrote the Piano Concerto in South Africa and Ireland. The piece is dedicated to Barbara Bailey, who generously lent me her room facing due east over the sea, where I worked each day from sunrise.

Kevin Volans


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