Piano Concerto - Andromeda

James Dillon (1950)

Piano Concerto - Andromeda 2006

3(I=Picc).3(III=Ca).3(I=ClEb, III=B-cl & Cb-cl).3(III=Cbsn) – 4.3(I=TptD).3.1 – Timp – 4Perc – Hp – Cel – Str(14.12.10.8.6)
Duration 
35
Solist 
Genre 
Commissioner 
Publisher 

Andromeda; the offspring of Celeus and Cassiopeia (night and darkness) is a personification of the dawn. To atone for the vanity of her mother Cassiopeia, who claimed she was fairer than any of the sea nymphs, she was chained fast to an overhanging rock where the waves’ foaming billows continually dashed their spray over her fair limbs. Eventually she is rescued by Perseus’ irresistible sword - the piercing rays of the sun. (H.A. Guerber) By the late 19th century and early 20th the ritualised and heroic struggle of the post Beethoven concerto is transformed from an ‘allegory of romance’ to a kind of ‘vanitas’; it moves from Prometheus to Narcissus. If the concerto during the early period of modernism inherits and maintains the idea of the heroic struggle, the emphasis often shifts to the level of the material itself. Its repertoire of gestures (the displaced elements of concerto form; cadenza, ritornello, ripieni, etc.) function only as a chain of traces in a theatre of memory.

My Piano Concerto is in one continuous movement of around 35 minutes duration. Formally this single movement consists of 15 sections (including a coda). These sections are the result of a division and re-ordering of larger stretches of material, the sections are arranged as a series of imaginary waves, one section giving birth to the next. The displacement of material marks our experience of continuity; the large rhythm of the sections contains a more spontaneous activity. Form cannot be separated from its activity and here this activity is a playful reality, an incandescent tension between renewal and suspension. (In some ways for me each new work gives birth to the next and this propulsion from work to work carries with it some mysterious sway.) Across this activity the solo piano casts its endless musical nets like some nucleic action, spinning trails into galaxies of sound. The technical demands on the pianist are extreme. However the intention is not one of
display. I am concerned with a certain strange exchange. The perpetual growth and decay, the vertiginous precision of the moment, the spontaneous nature of sound, is reflected in the form.

The rhythm of the unfolding sections remains the same, yet the internal forms are always different. Scale plays an important role – the sweeping movements of large scale textures are mirrored by microscopic shifts of instrumental colour. The solo piano weaves its figural spells around, within and outside of this play, creating a structure that is ambiguous, tries to be flexible, is always in motion, seeks contradictions, and privileges labyrinthine movement, however mysterious. The relationship between soloist and orchestra is always shifting; is one a part of the other, does one accompany the other? Everything remains unstable, remains mysterious. The experience of any unfolding drama will always be set against a silent drama, a silent stage, an unrealised staging. The invocation of the Andromeda myth serves only as an allegory to some protean theatre, whether it’s the uncanny cries of Andromeda or perhaps the echo of the shoreline.

James Dillon

Performances 
10.8.06 BBC Proms, London: Noriko Kawai / BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra / Ilan Volkov
3
Flute
1st doubling piccolo
3
Oboe
3rd doubling cor anglais
3
Clarinet
1st doubling Eb clarinet, 3rd doubling bass clarinet and contrabass clarinet
3
Bassoon
3rd doubling contrabassoon
4
Horn
3
Trumpet
1st doubling trumpet in D
3
Trombone
1
Tuba
1
Timpani
4
Percussion
14
Violin
12
Violin II
10
Viola
8
Cello
6
Double bass
1
Harp
1
Piano
celesta
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