The Piano Concerto of 1997 is one of three large-scale works composed by Vine with pianist Michael Kieran Harvey in mind (the others being Vineís two piano sonatas). This collaboration has benefited both musicians to an unusual degree - Harvey seems to have found Vineís works particularly congenial to his own brand of pianism. Perhaps more than in any of Vineís other works, a crucial starting point for his Piano Concerto is the medium itself.
Seasoned listeners will detect references to many sound-worlds associated with the piano as an accompanied solo instrument (not always in overtly formal contexts); as the composer puts it, there is ďa conscious and continuous tribute. . .to the ĎPiano Concertoí as a medium and historical entity.Ē The tribute is not to any particular composers or works, and most of the textures evoked are to some extent common property among at least a few of Vineís predecessors. Crucially, the spirit is not one of parody. Conveniently, there is another piano concerto which elucidates the difference: that in G major by Maurice Ravel. There, the slow movement is based on a single, unbroken melodic line, which is stated, is briefly developed and returns - Ravelís tribute to the slow movement of Mozartís quintet for clarinet and strings. It is unequivocally no parody, and no pastiche either - the tribute is very much on Ravelís own terms.
Like Vineís concerto, Ravelís is a pluralistic ride through many of the mediumís historical association, with a more direct tribute at its centre. Indeed, Vineís slow movement sounds not dissimilar to Ravelís to begin with. It is also a comparatively direct tribute (in a work full of glancing allusions) to a work by a master of the long melodic line: this time, J.S. Bach, and the slow movement of his F minor keyboard concerto (BWV 1056). For most listeners, Vineís concerto will recall composers rather closer to the present day - besides Ravel, names such as Prokofiev, Gershwin and Poulenc will be more likely to spring to mind. This is less because of any explicit references than because of certain predilections shared by these composers and Vine himself. All these composers are known for their healthy (but never obsequious) respect for tradition, for their own rather percussive, even at times jazzy, view of the piano (both as performers and composers), and for their rattling good tunes.
Vineís concerto is cast in the familiar three-movement form, with fast outer movements framing a central slow movement. The outer movements share some material (particularly in some lively conversational interchanges between piano and trumpet), and also some typically pianistic glitter across the orchestra, with harp and glockenspiel ensuring that the piano is less of an outsider than might have otherwise been the case. Concerto for Piano was commissioned by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
© 1997 Carl Rosman
Please contact Carl Rosman for permission to use this programme note