About this Recording
8.573199 - CRESSWELL, L.: Landscapes of the Soul / Piano Concerto / Concerto for Orchestra and String Quartet (De Pledge, New Zealand Symphony, McKeich)

Lyell Cresswell (b 1944)
Piano Concerto • I Paesaggi dell’anima • Concerto for Orchestra and String Quartet


Concerto for Piano and Orchestra

This piano concerto is written in memory of a close friend, the composer, Edward Harper, who died on Easter Sunday 2009. The concerto is in seven movements, which are played without a break:

1. Funeral March –
2. Adagio 1 –
3. Scherzo 1 –
4. Addolorato –
5. Scherzo 2 –
6. Adagio 2 –
7. Presto

Movements 3, 4, 5 and 6 were written before Edward died, but he was already ill with cancer and the whole concerto was written under the shadow of this.

The first movement, Funeral March, opens with a sequence of low six-note chords in the piano. These chords provide the basis for the complete concerto and are treated in various contrasting ways in each movement. The orchestra becomes an extension of the piano, sustaining these chords and taking them where the piano cannot go. The concerto is not a confrontation between soloist and orchestra—the piano is more like another section of the orchestra. A slow throbbing, but varying, pulse runs through the Funeral March, first in the harp, sometimes the timpani, sometimes pizzicato and, at the climax, with brass and woodwind. In the following tranquil Adagio the six-note chords are turned into serene melodic lines with quiet sustained chords in the strings. The first Scherzo is short, fast and restless. The central movement, Addolorato (distressed, grieving, upset), is, in turn, slow and reflective (in the piano), and querulous and disturbing (in the orchestra), posing questions rather than offering solutions. The second Scherzo is fast, light and fleeting—with a hushed centre. The second Adagio is composed of slow, unsettled and quiet chords leading to an angry outburst at the climax, and the pace in the final Presto is only interrupted briefly with some reference to Adagio 1.

The composer gratefully acknowledges the generosity of Jack Richards in commissioning this concerto for Stephen De Pledge.

I Paesaggi dell’anima (Landscapes of the soul)

I Paesaggi dell’anima was written as part of a project exploring the links between music, painting and landscape. The plan was to look into the affinities between the creation of painting and of music through dialogue between painter and composer based on the idea of landscape. The project involved the Italian painter Maurizio Bottarelli and myself.

Painters interpret the landscape as abstract patterns. They examine tiny details or take a large overview, they probe the many different aspects of every colour and the play of light and shade, and they scrutinise the shapes, lines, angles and movement within the landscape. In the same way the music of I Paesaggi dell’anima follows imaginary landscape patterns through rhythm, colour, line and evolving motifs.

Concerto for Orchestra and String Quartet

The Concerto for Orchestra and Sting Quartet is in one continuous movement, which comprises eleven sections—there is also an introduction and a short coda to round things off. In the introduction the trumpet introduces the melodic material on which the whole piece is based. Within the one movement framework there are elements of a more traditional concerto form—three movements: fast, slow, fast. But this design is fragmented to create the following pattern: Introduction A B C B A B A B C B C Coda (A = the first movement, which in turn becomes a kind of scherzo; B = the slow movement, and C = the finale).

It is some five minutes before the quartet plays together. The soloists are gradually introduced as follows: viola…viola + 1st violin…cello…viola + cello…1st violin…1st violin + 2nd violin…1st violin + 2nd violin + viola and eventually (in the third section) the whole quartet.

So there is a progression from individual soloists, through dialogue among the four players, to a unanimous voice. The orchestra has three rôles: to accompany the quartet, to assist the quartet (solo instruments from the orchestra are sometimes used to enrich the quartet), and to contribute to the musical argument by, for instance, signalling changes in direction or taking over from the quartet.

During the writing of this work some friends died far too early. It is dedicated to their memory. The concerto was commissioned by the City of Aberdeen with subsidy from the Scottish Arts Council and first performed by the Yggdrasil Quartet and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in February 1997.

Lyell Cresswell

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