List of Works || Concerto for Piano and Orchestra

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1966)

1. Slow
2. Fast
3. Slow
4. Fast
5. Slow

Solo Piano, Full orchestra, Flute (2), Piccolo, Oboe (2), English Horn, Clarinet (2), Bass Clarinet, Bassoon (2), Contra-bassoon, Horn (4), Trumpet (3), Trombone (3), Tuba, Timpani, Percussion, Strings, Violin (s), Viola (s), Cello (s), Bass (es)

Duration: 18 Minutes 20 Seconds

First Performance: 15 December 1966, Toronto; CBC Broadcast, Paul Helmer, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Victor Feldbrill

The Piano Concerto was premiered by Paul Helmer and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra on December 15, 1966. It had been twelve years since his last concerto, the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (1951-54), and Weinzweig admitted he “had no reason to feel optimistic about another try.” However, he imagined a fresh style that would draw on the rhythms and articulations of jazz, include extended performance techniques using the fist and forearms, and use a structure focused on shorter dialogues. According to Weinzweig, the Concerto demands “a new kind of pianist who [can] feel the pulse of jazz and give the keyboard a touch of swing.” He further explains:

“The concerto is a five-part extended movement plan of slow-fast-slow-fast-slow. The slow sections are introspective in temperament but built on highly charged fragments that are carried by a kind of swinging improvisation. The two fast sections release this inner tension into a high-spirited tempo. The opening 10 bar piano solo sets the style of the work—a 12-tone series with the inflection of jazz blues. The piano is then joined by four groups of triple woodwinds (flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons) that divide up the 12-note series into characteristic harmonic and melodic motives for a dialogue of increasing rhythmic tension. This resolves into a piano cadenza. In the second section the full orchestra explosive punctuations set off the piano into a bright rhythmic action based on the rhythmic unites (3/8, 2/4, 4/4). Section three re-instates the 4/4 metrical framework of section one. Here the piano combines pointillism with silence in a setting of percussion that rotate metallic, membrane and wood colors. In section four, six piano solos present a variety of metres and moods connected by a 3 timpani solo to a build-up of layers of orchestral ostinatos. In the final slow section the sonority is subdued by the many strings with the occasional dialogue from the pizzicato bass. The fragmented piano statements recall the previous slow sections, then signal the coda—a 12-note string chord that seems to hang in space. One by one the piano throws pointillistic shots that eliminate all but the minor second blues interval in the cellos. The pizzicato bass re-appears for a final statement. The piano releases the cello—into silence.”

Written by Alexa Woloshyn