Concert Piece in three sections
The piano concerto Concert Piece in three sections is a veritable ‘dream concerto’ for any soloist willing to explore the possibilities and push the envelope concerning conventionally structured piano concerti. The piano concerto with its three different movements has ‘everything’; it is a wellspring of musical ideas with a solo voice allowing the soloist to spread their wings in all directions in purely pianistic terms. According to the review in Aftenposten (Kvalbein, 2015: 7, my translation), ‘The piano concerto was a cornucopia of funny ideas, shifting kaleidoscopically in the first movement, more dramatic lingering in the second, rich and oscillating in the last movement, fearless in all directions.’ Concert Piece in three sections speaks intimately to our traditions with its references to key pieces and composers of the classical repertoire. 1 My skills as a performer of ‘classical music’ in playing these reference-quotes can be used in combination with my knowledge of performing ‘new music,' for example in the more aleatoric passages; it’s exciting to interact with the old music meshed in with the new. Concert Piece in three sections interrogates our history and the piano concerto as a genre. It positions itself shrewdly and elegantly at the first hurdle, very much alive and unpredictable: ‘The work represents, on the one hand, a kaleidoscopic structure of historical, thematic and musical references, while, on the other, it is always highlighting how this structure unfolds in the here and now’ (Bernhardt, 2015, my translation).
In Concert Piece in three sections, I had a completely ‘normal’ soloist part to work from and could study the orchestral parts using a ‘normal’ score. The part arrived already printed in Hegdal’s characteristically beautiful and precise handwriting. I noticed that a skilled performer had tested the music with suggestions as to fingering and pedalling and how sections were divided between the right and left hands. Hegdal was a professional pianist himself once. However, since the purpose of my new role awareness is to approach each new work as a performer-specific work, I began practising the concerto by deleting all these suggestions before starting. I wanted to tailor the learning process to my physique and abilities, right from the onset of the process.
The co-creative role in Concert Piece in three sections did not involve suggestions regarding additions or improvements as it did in the piano concerti at the tips of my fingers / on the tip of my tongue and Wowen Fingerprints. Part of the co-creative role was to enable fruitful working methods in preparing the music before the orchestral rehearsals. Hegdal’s handwritten score had few complex rhythms or challenging techniques, and the score with its sparsity of instructions to the player looked comfortable enough to play. The risk is that Hegdal’s music can be played hesitantly, with flat dynamics and a lack of varied articulation. In short, it sounds lacklustre. To inject the music with life, it is in my opinion important to work thoroughly at the level of the finest detail, to understand the context in which each part unfolds such that the players can react with a hair's breadth precision to each other at the micro level of chamber music. It is exciting to experiment with the limits of what the score allows for to find a satisfactory balance in such a rich musical material. The larger lines are clear thanks to the composer’s grasp of structure, so to emphasise the structure further is in my opinion not necessary.
Six months before the premiere I arranged a session with the conductor, composer and myself to reach a shared understanding of the piano concerto’s aesthetics well before the first orchestral rehearsal. By preparing together we could save valuable time so that by the time we started rehearsing with the orchestra, we would already have achieved a high artistic level. I asked Hegdal if he could make a piano reduction of the orchestral score so that we two could rehearse the ‘whole’ work together and then collaborate with the conductor to prepare this entirely new piece, which at the time had no audible references. Hegdal took up the challenge and developed an orchestral version for piano. It was immensely exciting to practice the piano concerto in a version for two pianos. Afterwards we invited the conductor to join us in a session to create a useful foundation for good interpretative concepts and working methods well before the orchestral rehearsals.
The most valuable aspect of this approach was the chance to ‘be in’ the work as a whole while it was being played in real time so long before the premiere. I experienced physically how the orchestral parts moved, and I could experiment with my interpretation of soloist material to see how it worked in the overall context. It was also exciting to see how the composer played; it gave an extra dimension to my understanding of the composition. It was rewarding and fun to sit at our respective concert grands discussing and to play in this way.
By running through the work, aural fragments of the piano concerto remained as physical impressions, and when I was alone, I tried practising with the orchestral parts ‘in my head,' creating the ‘virtual approach’ I had wanted to achieve at an early stage of the project. I managed to imagine two or three instrumental parts while I was playing since these parts often constituted melodic lines. I also made shorter recordings of me playing some of the orchestral parts; then when I played them back, I played my part on top while singing another instruments part. It also helped to add a vision of the physical sound quality of the instruments, to think in terms of density and sense the instruments’ different timbres and where the different instruments would be located spatially. I practised raising my eyes in the direction where the sounds would be coming from at the premiere.