Double-piano concertos don't grow on trees. Apart from those by Mendelssohn, Martinu and Poulenc, there are virtually none. So when a new one is unveiled, it's an event. Just such an event will take place on Saturday in Glasgow, when two young pianists, Philip Moore and Simon Crawford-Phillips, will flight-test the work they inspired.
The press release, simply entitled "Double Concerto", quotes Moore as saying the piece "looks" wonderful. Why only "looks"? "Because there's no way of listening to it in advance," he replies. "But the way the instruments knit together on the page is immediately visible in the full score, which looks like a huge piece of chamber music, with each instrument pursuing its own course. From an intellectual point of view it's impressive. But we won't actually hear what it sounds like till the day before the concert. I've never been in this situation before." Like flying blind? "Yes, or working on a blank canvas. It's very refreshing. We can say whatever we want with this piece."
Detlev Glanert, the affable German composer who might be expected to have a view on the presentation of his piece, seems equally enthused. "I liked the idea of having a concerto with two soloists, because doubling the solo instruments turned it from a romantically heroic thing into something essentially anti-heroic – a double hero is no hero. And the sound of two pianos – which is usually made to seem like one piano, only bigger – can be made to seem like a monster, doing things which are normally impossible on the keyboard. These ideas triggered my fantasies."
The other trigger was a collection of Nasa photographs of Mars that Glanert chanced upon. "I was fascinated not only by those landscapes but also by how they were named, after heroes and events from Greek and Roman mythology. Literature teaches us that mankind can only interpret the unknown by means of the known, and I tried to transpose that idea into my music." All aboard?
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