Icarus, for piano solo, was composed in the summer of 1988 at the request of pianist William Koseluk. The title refers to the Greek myth about Daedalus, an inventor and builder of the labyrinth, and his son, Icarus, who were punished by King Minos of Crete by being placed in the labyrinth. So difficult was the labyrinth that not even its inventor could discover the way out. Daedalus, however, made two pairs of wings as a means of escape. Before the flight, Daedalus warned his son not to fly too close to the sun, as the wax that held the wings together might melt and he would be killed. Icarus, however, was so thrilled by the joy of flight that he disobeyed his father and soared higher and higher, only to fall into the sea when the wax melted.

The mood of the piece reflects the youthful enthusiasm and heroism of the flight of Daedalus and his son and evokes the romantic spirit of the “wanderer.” The work is cast as a one-movement rondo lasting thirteen minutes and is intended as a brilliant showcase for the pianist, who at times might seem to be struggling against impossible odds.

Selected Performances of Icarus

Premiere: November 15, 1988: William Koseluk, pianist, Artists in Concert, Franklin & Marshall College

May 2, 1989: William Koseluk, pianist, Prisms New Music Ensemble, University of California, Santa Barbara

December 8, 1990: Broadcast on BBC New Music program, Rolf Hind, Piano

April 5, 1993: Jon Hendrickson, pianist, Rice University, Houston

June 11-13, 2004: Edith Orloff, Santa Barbara Chamber Music Festival

© John Carbon 2015