Three Pieces for Piano

solo piano (2010)


Three Pieces for Piano ... are concise, brilliantly crafted, etude-like works. They provide great opportunities for pure virtuosity, as in the pointillistic flurries of the "Caprice" and the rapid, percussive repeated note motives that dart through the "Arabesque"... The lyrical side ... in the "Aubade" seems to be haunted by the harmonic turns of the Prelude to Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde."
— The Baltimore Sun

...this brilliant, thirteen-minute group of pieces evoke Scriabin's restless flights, Debussy's intense tranquility and Ravel's dazzling colors.....
— The New York Times

Rands writes here with clarity as a guiding ideal. Biss, who commissioned the piece (Three Pieces for Piano) found a lot of color in it......eruptive, driving rhythmic passages, almost hypnotic flurries of notes.
— The Huffington Post

Program Note

Composed during the summer months of 2010, this work was commissioned by MUSIC ACCORD, New York, for the brilliant and uniquely-gifted American Pianist Jonathan Biss who will perform the world premiere in Mainz, Germany on December 3 (2010) followed by a fourteen-concert tour ending at Carnegie Hall on January 21, 2011.

The music of these solo piano pieces reflects the composer's desire to explore the legacy of the piano music of three of his favorite composers — Scriabin, Debussy and Ravel — not by stylistic imitation, but by extensions and transformations of their collective harmonic palette into his own musical language.

The first piece, CAPRICE, takes the meaning of the title literally in that a succession of four quite distinct musical ideas are frequently juxtaposed, reordered and elaborated. Once the four musical characters are clearly established, the speed at which the juxtapositions and reordering occur increases, as does the degree of transformation until the final section is a "capricious", unpredictable, faster succession of the original ideas that, nevertheless, remain easily recognizable.

The central piece, AUBADE is marked "very slow, quiet, vague with a feeling of indecision" and is in "essence" a condensed, harmonic reservoir of the two outer movements that, in many different ways, draw upon its overtly-stated and subtly-implied harmonies. As such it is a harmonic "map" which recalls fundamental elements of Caprice and anticipates the underlying structures of Arabesque.

ARABESQUE is built upon a series of rotations of pitch successions each extending its register until the entire keyboard is engaged. Every individual pitch of the rotations is swiftly reiterated (martellato a due mani) and is always preceded by a group of "grace notes" played as fast as possible and invariably staccato (secco) akin to a snare drum flam. These playing techniques coupled with demanding tempi and markings such as "relentless" and "restless" result in virtuosic pianism.

This work is dedicated, in admiration and appreciation, to Jonathan Biss whose live and recorded performances of the piano repertoire are a constant source of inspiration.

© Bernard Rands (2010)

Upcoming Performances

Nov. 09, 2014
Sheffield, UK

Nov. 02, 2014
University of Chicago
Chicago, IL

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