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A Concerto That Explores The Limitless Range of The Piano

Sim Canetty-Clarke
Pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin

A contemporary concerto by English composer Mark-Anthony Turnage explores the vast range of musical ideas a piano can express. WRTI’s Susan Lewis spoke with pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin, the soloist who premiered it, and who performs it again on Sunday, September 6th at 1 pm on WRTI’sPhiladelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcast. Yannick Nezet-Seguin conducts. Also on the program is music by Rachmaninoff. 

Listen to pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin speak with WRTI's Susan Lewis about playing the Turnage concerto with Yannick Nezet-Seguin in Rotterdam, and then again in Philadelphia.

Credit C. Philip Gatward
Composer Mark-Anthony Turnage

Radio script:

Susan Lewis: Turnage, a classical composer influenced by jazz, wrote his first piano concerto with soloist Marc-Andre Hamelin in mind, although Hamelin demurs.

Marc-Andre Hamelin: It’s a piece in memory of Hans Werner Henze. So it's not specifically for me, but it was written for us to premiere.

SL: German composer Henze, who had encouraged Turnage in his career, died in October of 2012; the second movement of the concerto is called "Last Lullabye for Hans." The full work premiered in 2013, with Hamelin on piano and  Yannick Nezet-Seguin leading the Rotterdam Philharmonic. Hamelin says it's challenging, unusual, and rewarding to play.

MAH: There are passages that require very diligent and slow practicing if you’re going to get them in your brain, because harmonically they are complicated...a couple of passages require a lot of displacement, movement across the keyboard. It's exciting...a lot of jazz inflections.

SL: The work showcases what a piano can do.

MAH: The piano is a limitless font – it's really a horn-of-plenty of color and emotion.

Susan writes and produces stories about music and the arts. She’s host and producer of WRTI’s TIME IN online interview series, and contributes weekly intermission interviews for The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert series. She’s also been a regular host of WRTI’s Live from the Performance Studio sessions.