2006 ECHO 13.7 for piano & orchestra

ECHO 13.7 Concerto for piano & orchestra (2006) – written for an at the request of Ralph van Raat.

The title refers to the prevalent assumption that the Universe is 13.7 billion years old and that all cosmic matter and its interactions are an ‘echo’ of the first moment of creation, the big bang. And so my own persona and the creations that I leave behind can be considered an echo of that critical event. Nothing in the music of Echo 13.7 however tries to emulate or even refer to the great cosmic events, sub-atomic or otherwise. It is pure outpouring of musical love and energy.

I have longed to write this work for many years and for a number of reasons, not least my love of the piano and its vast repertoire. Therefore, when Ralph expressed an interest in a new concerto, I didn’t hesitate for a moment and set to work as soon as other commitments were out of the way. By that time I had just finished a concerto for cello and orchestra, Voice of the Planet, which I knew all along to be a very difficult feat to accomplish. Given that I am a keen pianist myself with a fair knowledge of and familiarity with the repertoire, and given that the problems of balance were much less critical than in the cello concerto, I was looking forward to having a ball and riding a crest from start to finish. Nothing had prepared me for the hard realities of the genre as they dawned on me from the first bars onward. The design of a proper ‘concertante’ language was as difficult as it was to come up with something that hadn’t been tried many times before. Not to mention the problem of finding a way to accomplish the ambitions I was so anxious to pursue with the ease of an expert.

I ended up with a different work than I anticipated and we now have a lively, even playful concerto in 4 movements. The first and last in particular, are of the fast variety. The two middle movements are much more static in character. The music evolves by constantly opening avenues onto new vistas which gradually reveal the deep structure and full extent of the landscape I entered. The result is a mosaic as seen through a slow rotating kaleidoscope, although the endings of both first and last movement seem to cast a shadow and to obscure the landscape with a huge question mark, suggestive of a nostalgic pain… The large forces of the orchestra are only rarely used in full, but as a large reservoir they provide an ever changing scenery of colour, movement and depth of field. The piano part travels through it all, now focussing in on tiny objects that stand out in the mosaic, now finding congenial partners for short dialogues.