A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone?

Posted by: bennevis

A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone? - 12/07/12 06:16 AM

There are very few contemporary piano concertos that are heard or performed these days, even though many of them are very accessible (as in 'melodious'....). In fact, the most recent piano concerto that I ever hear regularly is Barber's, and that is 50 years old and in a post-Romantic idiom (and his Violin Concerto is performed far more widely, even so).

So, how about contemporary concertos that are truly contemporary, by living composers, and in a recognizably contemporary idiom but still 'accessible' even to those of us who think that piano concertos ended with Rach/Pag (or, at a pinch, with Bartok's 3rd....)?

There's Einojuhani Rautavaara's, which have been recorded (including by Ashkenazy), but I nominate a concerto by one of his pupils, Kimmo Hakola, instead, because it sounds truly modern, even from the start (ethereal high-lying violins over growling contra-bassoons), and its language is quite unlike that of any other piano concerto, encompassing not just Nordic gloom but also klezma, jazz, folk, Rachmaninoff-like romanticism and melodic & harmonic invention, Bartokian-like abrasiveness as well as moments of sheer beauty within its nine movements (one of which is a Cadenza for solo piano) and close to an hour. There's a great recording of it by Henri Sigfridsson.

My other nomination is André Previn's Piano Concerto, written for Vladimir Ashkenazy (who also recorded it with Previn). Apparently, the composer had said it's too difficult for him to play, because it was written with Ashkenazy's techical prowess in mind. And Ashkenazy wanted 'tunes', which he duly got, especially in the slow movement. He also got a bit of jazz too, and Previn has thrown in a bit of 'Russianness' into the mix. What a pity it's not been taken up by other pianists since (as far as I know), as it's not just entertaining and tuneful but also beautiful in places, just like Hakola's in his very different manner.

So, do you know a piano concerto by a living composer that you feel is unjustly neglected even though it's 'accessible'?
Posted by: debrucey

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone? - 12/07/12 06:20 AM

I like the Peter Sculthorpe piano concerto. There are also some great ones by Schnittke. Mind you, I'm not that fussed about the music I listen to being 'accessible'.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone? - 12/07/12 06:24 AM

Originally Posted By: debrucey
I like the Peter Sculthorpe piano concerto. There are also some great ones by Schnittke. Mind you, I'm not that fussed about the music I listen to being 'accessible'.


I haven't heard Sculthorpe's concerto yet but his other music certainly sounds wonderful (with or without didgeridoo....). Incidentally, while we're Down Under, Carl Vine's Piano Concerto was recently performed by Piers Lane - hopefully a recording will come out eventually.
Posted by: kapelli

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone? - 12/07/12 06:52 AM

Krzysztof Penderecki piano concerto is remarkable, you shold look at this.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone? - 12/07/12 06:58 AM

Originally Posted By: kapelli
Krzysztof Penderecki piano concerto is remarkable, you shold look at this.


Thanks, I will. Which Polish pianist(s) has played it?
Posted by: wr

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone? - 12/07/12 08:28 AM

Lang Lang playing Nigel Hess's Queen Mother concerto sets the bar for "accessible".
Posted by: bennevis

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone? - 12/07/12 08:31 AM

Originally Posted By: wr
Lang Lang playing Nigel Hess's Queen Mother concerto sets the bar for "accessible".



It reflects the tastes of the Royal Family, which means 'no dissonances' (unless it's rock music..... grin).
Posted by: jeffreyjones

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone? - 12/07/12 11:45 AM

He isn't alive, but Lutoslawski's Piano Concerto (1987) is a masterpiece. It was written for Krystian Zimerman.
Posted by: Verbum mirabilis

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone? - 12/07/12 02:10 PM

Lol, I just listened to Rautavaara's 3rd piano concerto (which is also written for Ashkenazy) and then I read this. I really like Rautavaara's neo-romantic style. I think his music has just the right amount of modernism in it.

Kapustin has composed at least one piano concerto, hasn't he?

Olli Mustonen composed his first symphony in 2011 and is composing a second one. Maybe a piano concerto is coming soon?

Edit: There's a Fantasy for piano and string orchestra by Mustonen.
Posted by: Janus K. Sachs

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone? - 12/07/12 02:39 PM

Originally Posted By: jeffreyjones
He isn't alive, but Lutoslawski's Piano Concerto (1987) is a masterpiece. It was written for Krystian Zimerman.
A damn fine work, and one of my personal favorites.

I do wonder if most listeners would think of it as "accessible", given that many consider Bartok's first two piano concerti to be "difficult" to listen to. IMHO they aren't any more challenging to listen to than Le Sacre (which most listeners take in eagerly).

While I'm at it, I think Salonen's Piano Concerto is another fine work (and, I'd like to think, quite accessible, given its visceral nature and relative consonance).

Speaking of Rautavaara, IMHO his Second Piano Concerto is miles ahead of the vapid Third. I'd even put the sometimes laughable First Piano Concerto ahead of the Third.
Posted by: debrucey

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone? - 12/07/12 03:20 PM

Originally Posted By: bennevis
Originally Posted By: wr
Lang Lang playing Nigel Hess's Queen Mother concerto sets the bar for "accessible".



It reflects the tastes of the Royal Family, which means 'no dissonances' (unless it's rock music..... grin).


Is there much dissonance in rock music?
Posted by: wr

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone? - 12/08/12 06:06 AM

Originally Posted By: Janus K. Sachs
Originally Posted By: jeffreyjones
He isn't alive, but Lutoslawski's Piano Concerto (1987) is a masterpiece. It was written for Krystian Zimerman.
A damn fine work, and one of my personal favorites.

I do wonder if most listeners would think of it as "accessible", given that many consider Bartok's first two piano concerti to be "difficult" to listen to. IMHO they aren't any more challenging to listen to than Le Sacre (which most listeners take in eagerly).



Reading this reminded me of when I was in my early teens (half a century ago) and experiencing a lot of great music for the first time. I loved Bartok's 2nd concerto immediately on first hearing (it was a radio broadcast), and I wanted to hear it again right away (which wasn't so easy to manage back then, where I lived). In contrast, Mozart's concertos weren't particularly accessible to me at that time, and I didn't enjoy them until much later in life.
Posted by: currawong

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyon - 12/09/12 02:01 AM

Originally Posted By: wr
Reading this reminded me of when I was in my early teens (half a century ago) and experiencing a lot of great music for the first time. I loved Bartok's 2nd concerto immediately on first hearing (it was a radio broadcast), and I wanted to hear it again right away (which wasn't so easy to manage back then, where I lived). In contrast, Mozart's concertos weren't particularly accessible to me at that time, and I didn't enjoy them until much later in life.
My experience too (at much the same time). I was so excited to be discovering Bartok (particularly loved the sonata for 2 pianos and percussion), Stravinsky, Schoenberg - but it was a good ten years before I could really get excited about Mozart.
Posted by: jdhampton924

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyon - 12/09/12 02:26 AM

I really love Micheal Daugherty's La Tombaue De Liberace

Which is a cool piano concerto making use of Liberace's style of piano playing.

Or Liebermann's 2nd piano concerto
Posted by: mrenaud

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyon - 12/09/12 05:16 PM

Ligeti. Not unknown, but a very fine piece IMHO.

Also, Takemitsu: "riverrun". This one's from his somewhat neo-impressionist late style. A beautiful piece of music, though it's just one movement at (IIRC) about 15 minutes, probably not long enough to fit the bill.

I also happen to think André Jolivet's piano concerto is very underplayed (as is most of his output, actually). The harmonic language is a very extended tonality with a generous dash of exoticism. Think of it as a modern Saint-Saens 5.

And I like the Carter concerto, though I doubt it qualifies as "accessible", whatever that means.
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyon - 12/09/12 07:40 PM

Kevin Oldham - Concerto for Piano, Op. 14 - (1991)

Succumbed to AIDs on March 11, 1993 at the age of 32. CD of the concerto is on a disc entitled "Memento Bittersweet" issued by RCA in 1994.

The concerto has received multiple performances and deserves wider recognition.
Posted by: Gavbrown

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyon - 12/09/12 07:58 PM

Why not try me? I am a modern composer who writes classical music in a rock idiom. A sound file and free score are available here: http://composersforum.ning.com/profiles/blogs/american-anthem
Posted by: Richter

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyon - 12/09/12 09:58 PM

Schnittke Concerto for Piano and Strings. Wonderful piece of music!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGSq4Kc8GNU
Posted by: bennevis

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyon - 12/11/12 12:52 PM

Thanks for all the suggestions.

I think it's one of the things (good & bad) about being a pianist that there is such a huge repertoire that noone need ever stray from the concertos of Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin; or alternatively, Brahms, Liszt, Schumann and Grieg; or alternatively Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky....and so on.

As for the ones by Henselt, Scharwenka, Anton Rubinstein, Paderewski, Moszkowski etc, only a very few entreprising pianists even bother to look at them.

Which might be why so many contemporary concertos - even really good ones - today only ever get a few hearings (often only by the pianist it was written for), and then are never heard again. Apart from the ones written for Ashkenazy that I mentioned earlier, there's Marc-André Dalbavie's (written for Leif Ove Andsnes) as well as Salonen's (written for Yefim Bronfman). Will anyone else ever play them?

Then the ones written by pianist-composers, like John Ogdon, whose marvellous concerto has been recorded by him.....and not been heard again since.
Posted by: Mark4424

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone? - 03/19/13 04:02 PM

Actually, I do know of a new accessible, melodic, modern piano concerto. Actually, I just wrote one. If you're interested, I could send you a recording.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone? - 03/19/13 04:34 PM

Yes, I'd be interested.
Posted by: Nikolas

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone? - 03/19/13 04:54 PM

Originally Posted By: Mark4424
Actually, I do know of a new accessible, melodic, modern piano concerto. Actually, I just wrote one. If you're interested, I could send you a recording.
I'm also interested please! If you have trouble uploading your recording somewhere, let me know via PM and I can help.

Now, I don't know how this is going to sound but I'm actually working on a piano concerto... It should be accessible to the ears, but not so much to the technicalities (damn difficult concerto...). I'm not too sure on when I'll have something more specific to share, but since my duets are doing so well and I've been posting about them for quite a while, I might as well start bugging you with the concerto as well! grin

(The Schnittke piano+strings concerto is WONDERFUL! Not too neglected, since I know there've been a few performances AND recordings available thus far, but still...)
Posted by: Polyphonist

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone? - 03/19/13 06:09 PM

I'm currently writing one as well... grin anyone who wants a score should PM me and I can send excerpts once it's finished
Posted by: AldenH

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone? - 03/20/13 10:15 AM

I aired Zimerman's recording of the Litosławski on my radio show this morning! My first hearing - a rather incredible work.
Posted by: Mark4424

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone? - 03/20/13 04:46 PM

I should be able to get my brother (the compu-wizard) to put it online tonight, or atleast by this weekend. I'll let you know.
Posted by: Mark4424

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone? - 03/20/13 08:47 PM

Here's my concerto. It's derived (admittedly a long way) from minimalism. I'm including an earlier (solo) piece to compare. The concerto is midi, but works surprisingly well (except at the beginning where there's that weird "pp" = "distance" effect.) Enjoy.

www.cheyennesd.net/other/other.html
Posted by: Polyphonist

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone? - 03/20/13 09:31 PM

Originally Posted By: Mark4424
Here's my concerto. It's derived (admittedly a long way) from minimalism. I'm including an earlier (solo) piece to compare. The concerto is midi, but works surprisingly well (except at the beginning where there's that weird "pp" = "distance" effect.) Enjoy.

www.cheyennesd.net/other/other.html


Interesting.
Posted by: Fugue14

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone? - 03/20/13 10:23 PM

I like Esa Pekka Salonen's Concerto and Magnus Lindberg's new Concerto No.2. Both require extraordinary feats of virtuosity, though.
Posted by: fnork

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone? - 03/21/13 09:45 AM

Someone beat me to it, I was just about to mention Lindberg's 2nd concerto wink I was able to find the recording of the premiere through classical archives (try here - http://www.classicalarchives.com/work/72052.html ), and the score is available for browsing through on Booseys website. It's a VERY dense scoring - a friend of mine heard the premiere but said she couldn't hear much of Bronfman (possibly because of where she was seated, however).
Magnus is a very friendly fellow in addition. His later works (from the last 10-15 years or so) are quite different from his earlier style. He by the way recorded his own first piano concerto (under Salonen's baton), so he's indeed quite a formidable pianist himself.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone? - 03/21/13 09:52 AM

Originally Posted By: fnork
Someone beat me to it, I was just about to mention Lindberg's 2nd concerto wink I was able to find the recording of the premiere through classical archives (try here - http://www.classicalarchives.com/work/72052.html ), and the score is available for browsing through on Booseys website. It's a VERY dense scoring - a friend of mine heard the premiere but said she couldn't hear much of Bronfman (possibly because of where she was seated, however).
Magnus is a very friendly fellow in addition. His later works (from the last 10-15 years or so) are quite different from his earlier style. He by the way recorded his own first piano concerto (under Salonen's baton), so he's indeed quite a formidable pianist himself.


Is the Lindberg 2nd one of those concertos for piano against orchestra? I've liked the Lindberg I've heard so far, but a concerto where the pianist is constantly struggling to be heard is somewhat off-putting........
Posted by: fnork

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone? - 03/21/13 04:59 PM

Originally Posted By: bennevis
Is the Lindberg 2nd one of those concertos for piano against orchestra? I've liked the Lindberg I've heard so far, but a concerto where the pianist is constantly struggling to be heard is somewhat off-putting........

It sounds relatively fine in the recording, but its a massive orchestration...Balance is very much of an issue in piano concertos by modernist composers of our times as doublings and octaves aren't an accepted procedure in certain circles. Doublings/octaves, however, is usually what makes the piano audible in a concerto context...There's a funny story about this regarding Lindberg's FIRST piano concerto where he had troubles with balance issues and discussed the matter with my current piano teacher, as well as with Pierre Boulez. Linberg explained to Boulez that he wanted the piano to be heard at all times, to which Boulez replied - "well, then you're going to have another Chopin concerto...". My teacher, who has been a friend of Magnus since they were in their teens, mentioned that for the piano to be heard at all times, octaves and doublings would be necessary - now, with Magnus' compositional aesthetics at that time, he seemed shocked by such a suggestion. Octaves are indeed the worst dissonance for a forward-looking modernist!! (at least I do believe it was Magnus who was shocked by the suggestion, though it might have been Boulez. Lindbergs composigional aesthetics, of course, have changed since then)
Posted by: Mark4424

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone? - 03/21/13 07:24 PM

Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
Originally Posted By: Mark4424
Here's my concerto. It's derived (admittedly a long way) from minimalism. I'm including an earlier (solo) piece to compare. The concerto is midi, but works surprisingly well (except at the beginning where there's that weird "pp" = "distance" effect.) Enjoy.

www.cheyennesd.net/other/other.html


Interesting.


Thanks.
Posted by: kcostell

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone? - 03/22/13 05:25 AM

I'm fond of James MacMillan's "The Berserking". You can hear short samples at AllMusic , and the full recording's on Spotify if you have that.
Posted by: Fugue14

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone? - 03/23/13 01:33 PM

Originally Posted By: fnork
Someone beat me to it, I was just about to mention Lindberg's 2nd concerto wink I was able to find the recording of the premiere through classical archives (try here - http://www.classicalarchives.com/work/72052.html ), and the score is available for browsing through on Booseys website.


Thanks for the link. I attended the West coast premiere in SF, so I'm thrilled to have a recording of the piece.
Posted by: Janus K. Sachs

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone? - 03/23/13 02:57 PM

Wow, a Second Piano Concerto from Lindberg! He's another personal favorite. I hope I can somehow procure the recording (oddly, ArkivMuic doesn't carry it).
Posted by: Fugue14

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone? - 03/24/13 01:50 PM

Originally Posted By: Janus K. Sachs
Wow, a Second Piano Concerto from Lindberg! He's another personal favorite. I hope I can somehow procure the recording (oddly, ArkivMuic doesn't carry it).


It hasn't been officially released as far as I can tell. This work would greatly benefit from a studio recording so the balances can be properly corrected--unless Lindberg wants the piano covered by the orchestra at times!