Piano and Orchestra
A Symphony: New England Holidays
Aaron Copland vividly and succinctly captured the life, myths, culture and spirit of the USA in his works. As pianist, conductor, teacher and writer of music, he had a decisive influence on American musical life, and promoted the work of younger colleagues. Copland’s Orchestral Variations are based on his Piano Variations from 1930. Over a quarter of a century later, he orchestrated the piano work, realising in the process a plan he had long been harbouring. “My purpose was not to create orchestral sounds reminiscent of the quality of a piano, but rather to rethink the sonorous possibilities of the composition in terms of orchestral colour”, Copland explained.
Like John Cage, whom he met in 1949, many of Morton Feldman’s friends were modernist American painters, most of them representatives of abstract expressionism. The title of Feldman’s Piano and Orchestra (1975) indicates the instrumental forces of the traditional piano concerto, but the work has no further resemblance with the concerto tradition. Like a painter spreading paint over a stretched canvas, Feldman distributes sounds within a particular duration of time. In his own words, he “see(s) the orchestra in a way as a very graphic, acoustic arena”. The piano and orchestral entries are sensitively balanced in reduced yet precisely composed constellations of timbre, changing through almost imperceptible structural variations and subtle shifts.
A Symphony: New England Holidays by Charles Ives is a symphony that addresses the American public holidays. Ives creates a vivid, multi-coloured sound cosmos from popular melodies and celebratory music that is layered polytonally and polyrhythmically. The work includes the imitation of a firework display and closes with a festival chorale.
The London Symphony Orchestra and Ernst Senff Choir recreate Charles Ives’ impression of American national holidays. With Michael Tilson Thomas conducting and Emanuel Ax at the piano, the Musikfest presents two experts who are among those most intimately acquainted with the three American composers of this programme.