Sat | 15 August 2020 | 7:30 BST
PAUL MEALOR: PIANO CONCERTO
with the London Mozart Players
Artists presenting these concerts have adhered to strict and rigorous social distancing guidelines and safety measures.
JAM on the Marsh presents this festival of new virtual concerts and exhibitions supporting both performers and venues, which comes at a huge cost to the JAM charity.
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Registered charity No. 1096150
Peter Aviss: The Seafarer
Barber: Adagio for Strings
Judith Bingham: The Hythe (commissioned by JAM 2012)
Bartók: Romanian Folk Dances, Sz.56
Paul Mealor: Piano Concerto (world premiere – commissioned jointly by JAM and the North Wales International Music Festival 2020)
About the Piano Concerto by Paul Mealor
In early 2019 Ed Armitage and I discussed the possibility of me writing a work which was inspired and coloured by the wonderful place that is Romney Marsh in Kent. I have spent many summers on the Marsh attending the JAM on the Marsh Festival and it struck me that something which is ‘purely musical’ (without words) but a ‘portrait’ of this special place would be a unique way of celebrating the long association I have with the Marsh, it’s Festival and it’s people. So, the Piano Concerto idea was born.
Ed and Sarah Armitage were so incredibly kind that they offered their home on the Marsh as a place where I could write this piece and, during the early part of 2020 I moved into the Lookout in Littlestone and wrote my concerto whilst gazing out over the golf course and spending each morning walking along the shore, visiting the special places of the Marsh and absorbing the light, colours and feel of the Marsh in Winter. I am indebted to Ed and Sarah for allowing me this time in their beautiful house. I am also incredibly indebted to Richard and Angie Fry who allowed me free range and access to their beautiful grand piano where all of this concerto was first tested, heard and performed.
The Concerto reflects my time on the marsh: the sound of the seagulls which woke me up each morning can be heard in the strings as high glissandi in the middle section and even Storm Dennis – which I experienced – can be heard in the loud, rumbling piano cadenza which starts the second section of the piece. Also, the light breaking over Littlestone Golf Course was the inspiration for the opening of the concerto. The piece is in one long movement lasting just over twenty minutes but is subdivided into three sections. The first section is an aural representation of the early light breaking on the marsh. It begins with a singling bowl which then opens up into a heart beat – being both the human element of the marsh and a reflection of time ticking away the seasons. This is then developed into a melody which is shamelessly romantic in feel and spirit. The second section is a prolonged cadenza for the piano soloist. Moving from slow to extremely fast and dramatic this is music of impatience, of the storm, of nature.
The final section of the concerto is a ‘round’ of fierce dramatic tension which has ideas coming back in different guises. Here the pianist is at their most virtuosic! And, the work comes to a lightening close in a whirlwind display of instrumental and ensemble virtuosity.
Harmonically and gesturally, the piece is ‘coloured’ by four notes from Paganini’s twenty fourth Caprice for solo violin. Always a favourite of mine, it also influenced Rachmaninov in his ‘Rhapsody on a theme by Paganini’. For me, this short quote which is heard throughout the piece, coming to fruition in the final section, represents time and timelessness – the old melody being almost like one of the ancient churches of the Marsh standing out of time.
Commissioned jointly by JAM and the North Wales International Music Festival, my Piano Concerto will have two first performances – on the 15th of August 2020 virtually from St Leonard’s Church, Hythe (Kent) by John Frederick Hudson (piano) and the London Mozart Players conducted by Michael Bawtree and on the 2nd of October 2021 at St Asaph Cathedral with John Frederick Hudson (piano) and the NEW Sinfonia conducted by Robert Guy. The concerto is dedicated to my great friend, Robert Philips with much thanks for his friendship, guidance and support.