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The Rock Concerto began life in 1986 as a (first) Rock Sonata for piano, a work with strong classical roots and in places of Lisztian difficulty, commissioned by the New Zealand pianist Bruce Greenfield for his gifted virtuoso pupil the seventeen-year-old Eugene Albulescu. (Partlly on the strength of this score, the composer was invited in 1987 as an international guest composer to a ten-day contemporary music festival in Kentucky, hosted by the Louisville Orchestra for its fortieth anniversary.) At Albulescu's request, in 2009 she scored and revised the rock sonata as a piano concerto which he might also direct from the keyboard.
The first two movements are in sonata form, each complete with first subject, transition theme, and contrasting second group, with a classical-type development section, at the end of which there is also an opportunity for an improvised cadenza (Albulescu's idea, and an uncommon feature of his performances - by his own desire held well in check, however, in the present recording). Though the music is newly composed, and its rhythmic language is very much of our own time (in a popular sense), it is also strongly impelled by the spirit of Beethoven (Mozart, Schubert, Liszt, Debussy, Gershwin...) - the 'distant friends' referred to in the first. Another friend was Charlie French, to whom the second, rather darker movement (scored for solo piano, strings and flute alone) is dedicated. Charlie was an Australian aboriginal activist who shared our home in Wellington for a time and later succumbed, alas, as an early victim of Aids. The headlong last movement is in rondo-sonata form, a with a Latino romp as its rescurring rondo, a nursery-type second theme, and a development-cum-episode that starts in a quasi-Iberian vein. Each movement has a coda (in the first and last cases quite extended), and each may also be played independently.
Commissioned by Bruce Greenfield for Eugene Albulescu as "Rock Sonata" with the assistance of the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council of New Zealand and the NZ Composer's Foundation; revised and orchestrated as "Rock Concerto" (2009) for Eugene Albulescu (piano) and Uwe Grodd (conductor), and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
1. To Absent Friends
2. Elegy for Carlie French (for solo piano, flute and strings)
3. Rondo Latino
27 Jul 2010: Performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra with pianist Eugene Albulescu (piano) and conductor Uwe Grodd at the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington