Première Review – Adrian More Piano Concerto No. 1

Fancois du Toit, Owain Arwel Hughes, CTPO, City Hall Thursday 27 November 2014

Reviewed by Andy Wilding

Hearing the work for the first time one can acknowledge the influences, but More’s concerto is an enthusiastically independent work, and a sound that we have never heard before. The piano makes an ominous entry over moody cellos in the style of dark romanticism. I was immediately struck by the originality of thematic material. The second subject is playful and mischievous. I enjoyed the somewhat irreverent “flat hand” technique, followed by impressive complexity in the piano part, and the exquisite use of solo violin, nicely performed by Farida Bacharova. The thematic exploration in the development section was pleasingly thorough. It swells the first subject into a washing flood that bursts into a thundering climax, and presents the cadenza.

More’s piano part is dynamic, at times merging with the sound, at times emerging in solo passages. The technique of wonderfully complex interplay between tune and counterpoint in the right hand is reminiscent of the Tchaikovsky concerto, consummated by the able fingers of du Toit. Orchestrally, the highlights for me were that delicious moment of cellos and double bassoon; the stunning atmospheric downward slides in the trombones; and the second climax, introduced by the distant and then rapidly approaching thundering of the bass drum.

The Elgaresque slow movement is sentimental and nostalgic, a moment of calm after the remarkable excitement of the first movement. To avoid any potential risk I feel I should pre-empt the following view by affirming that I consider the composing of film music no less skilled or musically interesting than the composing of a concerto or a symphony. All things being equal, the only difference is the form and structure. (If Beethoven wrote a film score, it would be no less genius than his other works, but neither would it be in sonata form!) So, when I heard the influences of Badalamenti and Morricone, and I realised that I would not be at all surprised to see Adrian More’s name on a film score in the not too distant future, I understood that this composer has something to offer that not only can be accepted by the sophisticated classical ear, but is also accessible to the commercial audience. Lullabies never get old, and this middle movement is full of peaceful nurturing and holding, dressed in beautiful melodies.

The third movement is a return to excitement, with catchy syncopation in the marimba and percussion, Bartokian rhythms, and witty humour. Again I was impressed by the original thematic material. I have this discussion with many composers: With only 12 tones in the scale, 8 notes, and 12 keys to modulate through, surely although gargantuan, the combinations of these tonal elements with potential rhythms must be ultimately finite? Hence the exploration of modernism outside the 8 note scale – a search into a wider paradigm to find fresh melody. Is the age of tuneful composing at an end?

Clearly, More has indeed found MORE!

This is a remarkable feat in itself. But, considering the studious application of the principles of thematic development in this concerto, (thanks teacher Peter Klatzow, another true original!) coupled with considerable piano technique, one did feel somewhat excited by the prospect of a new composer in our own city, who could write fresh material that sounds good, and has not been heard before.

I look forward to hearing MORE!

With Adrian More, Piano Concerto Premiere

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Next Concert:
CTPO 100 Years Gala Concert
December 4, City Hall
Martin Panteleev
Benjamin Schmid
Klatzow – Congratulations! (Premiere)
Mendelsshon – Hebrides Overture
Paganini – Violin Concerto no 1
Rimsky-Korsakov – Scheherazade

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