Fantasy-Nocturne was composed in 2013 at the request of Brian Norcross for pianist Steven Graff and Allegro. Unlike my first piano concerto, written for the truly huge Czech Philharmonic, this work calls for a relatively small orchestra. The more intimate scoring allowed me to explore a different relationship between the piano and orchestra. Whereas my earlier work relies on the dramatic piano against orchestra idea, here I’m more interested in a collaborative relationship.
I was influenced by composer-pianist Frédéric Chopin in several ways. I particularly enjoy the few works Chopin wrote in hybrid forms (for example his Fantasie-Polonaise). In this piece I’ve embedded a series of nocturne-like sections within a single-movement fantasy based on a scherzo march. There are three different nocturnes that return in embellished incarnations throughout the piece. The idea of repeating sections in embellished form is something that Chopin relies on formally. As in Bellini’s bel canto arias, the returning melody is decorated in an improvised-sounding variation. I’ve always enjoyed the way in which Chopin uses nationalistic Polish airs and militaristic march-like music in a memory-laden way. In my piece there is something similar, but it is ironically stated. Finally, I was influenced by Chopin’s orchestration in his piano concertos. Often maligned, his approach was to amplify the piano in subtle ways with the orchestra. In addition to opposing the timbres, I’ve attempted to use the orchestra as an extension of the piano in several sections of the work.
July 13, 2013: Pianist Steven Graff with the Allegro Chamber Orchestra, Brian Norcross conducting. Barshinger Center the the Musical Arts, Lancaster, PA.