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The composer writes: "Movements 3, 4, 5 and 6 were written before Edward (Harper) 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 can't 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, grieved, 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."
Extract from a review by Michael Tumelty for The Herald in Scotland, 19 March 2012.: "Stars of the night were Lyell Cresswell, for his volcanic, volatile Piano Concerto, and pianist Stephen de Pledge for his powerhouse delivery, with its sledgehammer force and shockingly steel-like clarity in the poignant, reflective moments in the music."
Commissioned by Jack Richards for Stephen De Pledge
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:
- Funeral March
- Adagio 1
- Scherzo 1
- Scherzo 2
- Adagio 2
13 May 2011: Performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and pianist Stephen de Pledge with conductor Hamish McKeich in Wellington
28 May 2011: Performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and pianist Stephen de Pledge with conductor Hamish McKeich in Auckland
23 Mar 2013: Christchurch Symphony Orchestra - FIREBIRD
Performed by The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Stephen De Pledge, and conducted by Hamish McKeich