fl/ob/B flat cl/bsn/hrn/trp/glcksp/timp(one player)/hrp/2 pno/str
Composer's note: "The story how a new composition starts is always different. I was very excited and thrilled by the fact that the young dynamic Dutch piano duo Stefan and Martijn Blaak commissioned a new double concerto for two pianos. They already had successfully recorded my Vesalius Suite for piano four hands and of course I had already completed six solo piano concertos, so this felt almost like the right moment to undertake this project.
Dreaming about a new project is always very seducing and almost addictive but in the end, it must lead to concrete steps, taking more and more musical decisions how you shape, built new work, what your idea is about the concept, in this case of a double concerto.
In commissions duration and orchestration are very often discussed and the length of min. 25’ seemed a minimum. The orchestra should be a chamber orchestra, also here the exactly choice became more pronounced during the writing process.
One starts doing some research, looking for examples of existing double piano concertos and certainly there are always more works in the genre than one might presume. Of course, the obvious ones are in the end not just the most famous or most played ones because it’s Mozart or Poulenc or Mendelssohn, that’s an understatement, it is because they are just better than the other existing pieces. I was particularly not impressed by the double concerto of Philip Glass f.i. nor the older concerto of Bruch or the much too thick written work of Martinu.
I remember an interview in Paris I did as a student in the eighties with the famous Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski, who already completed then his pianoconcerto for Zimmerman, and he was then thinking too of a two-piano concerto which was in his point of view much more interesting because you have two independent sets of pedals.
I adore Poulenc as a composer, also his concerto is very successful, full of colors, rhythm and interesting treatment of the given of two pianos, but in my view, much too short as a concerto and rather, not chaotic, but more rhapsodic in his general all-over-form.
So, deciding how my work would be it very often becomes ‘not that but’.
It always starts with ideas about something: the last years the large overall form interests me more and more, in fact how to create a way of manipulating musical events in such a way that the listener get an experience as a piece of one whole with a very considerable length. Of course, in this case not a concerto of two hours but at least a piece where all movements must be related to each other. Further on, you fantasize about titles and characters of movements, like a playful Toccata or Jeu, the consideration of prolonging the three-movement-pattern and so one.
All depends of the material you finally opt for: in this case, the whole creation process felt like exceptional, if everything processed itself and the swift pace it was performed seemed almost out of my own control. In the end, this concerto has a duration of almost 32’ minutes and all movements were sketched inner half of four weeks, February 2017. It happened during a very common traffic jam when I heard the main theme of Aubade very clearly in my head: I was heading towards my work and once arrived I noted down those first four bars in a roughly drawn piano staff on a course sheet. This musical line expressed exactly in my mind what I wanted to strive for: music that sounded positive and stimulating your energy.
The title Aubade came later into my mind because its music seemed to be the embodiment of my experience I previously had in the month December when I visited my brother in Mexico: I stayed in a marvelous hotel Kyn Sol Soleil at a fantastic beautiful coast there, in Maroma, and it was this feeling of the continuous sound of the waves pounding into the ocean, getting awake, and then seeing the sky and the ocean early in the morning, combined with this warmth, the wind and the energy and continuous force of those waves which sounds into this Aubade.
This energetic motive with its ascending fifth became the building stone of the whole architecture, even when in Badinerie and Soupirs both movements seem to have of their themes and motives, always at a certain moment this Maroma-motive returns of involves or takes over or transforms the movement in something deeper. Endings of movements were designed as such that transitions could be realized without interruption. Aubade incites to Badenerie as Soupirs does to Feu, even if you would leave out the Cadence in consideration. The Cadence is composed as last movement, begins and ends in the same key as 3. Ends and 5 begins and thus becomes a major part of 3 to 5 as one big movement towards the end, that and this felt like coincidence, ends in the same key as the concerto starts. It utilizes the Maroma-theme and in its middle section improvises material from the Badinerie.
The concerto has five movements: Aubade-Badinerie-Soupirs-Cadence-Feu. In each movement, the main Maroma-theme is present. With exception of a short caesura after n.2 everything should be played without interruption. If the conductor of piano duo prefers, they can even omit the very last measure of Badinerie, it will sound then like an open ending, a short fermate to make the transition to the 3. As you like.
In the same option, one also can opt to omit the Cadence: the ending and the beginning of the 3rd
and 5th movement are designed as such that they can be played without interruption and even without Cadence: the concerto has a duration of 28’ without Cadence and almost 33’ with Cadence.
The main title Passions is derived from Les passions de l’âme, written by Descartes in 1649. It was dedicated to Queen Christina of Sweden; the author contributes to a long tradition of theorizing "the passions".
The passions were experiences now commonly called emotions in the modern period, and had been a subject of debate among natural philosophers since the time of Plato.
Descartes represented the problem of the passions of the soul in terms of its simplest integral components. He distinguishes between six different fundamentally distinct passions:
But there aren’t many simple and basic passions... you’ll easily see that there are only six: wonder, love, hatred, desire, joy, sadness. All the others are either composed from some of these six or they are species of them. So I’ll help you to find your way through the great multitude of passions by treating the six basic ones separately, and then showing how all the others stem from them.
—Descartes, Passions of the Soul, article 69.
In my concerto, at least five of the basic passions are represented. I had many thoughts about an exact title for the third movement, first thinking of an Intermezzo, Romance and so one. Finally, the word Soupir(s) suggests the closest the very simple musical idea of this melancholic movement, I found the word in a verse of the Bible:
Ps.84:2 Mon âme soupire et languit après les parvis de l'Eternel, Mon coeur et ma chair poussent des cris vers le Dieu vivant.
It is my strong wish that this passionate music also reaches the passion of the music listener.
Full set, score and parts, included solo parts for piano, 654pp
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