Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Leroy Anderson Piano Concerto, First Impressions

As I mentioned last week, I am a new fan of Leroy Anderson's Piano Concerto. I happened to make notes the first time I listened to it, and having listened a number of times since then, looked back at the notes this morning. Here they are, as well as, at the end, another pair of links to the concerto for your own listening pleasure:

First Movement:

Stirring opening. Lush mid-century sound. First theme is light and breezy but has some genuine tugs on the heart strings. Second theme is very rhapsodic (somewhat Gershwinesque and I mean this in a positive way), and is also reminiscent of the Chaplin song from “City Lights”. Third theme is bouncy, moves along and builds with anticipation. Some great clarinet moments. Then return to the opening theme. Nice horn interlude reiterates a variation on the second theme. Movement ends with a piano cadenza; it is tremendously fine.

Second Movement:

Beginning is slow and dreamlike as woodwinds create a thoughtful mood. Piano then enters with a reverie that is echoed by a horn. Then the mood switches to a Latin beat section—bright and festive, but still light in feeling. Then a return to the first theme and an inter-weaving of the second. The mood is wistful, urban--think of a city skyline sparkling like diamonds.

Third Movement:

Nice opening piano, snare drums and then an American West sounding theme from the piano, evoking roundup time (nicely connects to Copeland and other 20th century American serious composers, who often drew upon Western themes). Then comes an ongoing cityscape theme, quite lyrical, in fact, tears-to-the-eyes beautiful, and when the orchestra joins in, both romantic and modern, in a positive sense (sounds new and fresh). Builds nicely to a march sound, like a good parade on a happy sunny day (think fourth of July). Interlude reiterates the romantic theme with piano flourishes. Then a one of those wonderful rush to the finish endings, which has some anticipation of A. L. Weber’s "Phantom".

I am definitely a new fan of this concerto.

Anderson's concerto is polished and delightful. To get a sense of it, listen to the first part of the concerto, here:

Leroy Anderson (1908-1975) : Concerto for piano and orchestra (1953) 1/2

The rest of the concerto is here:

Thrilling conclusion

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