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Arts Desk

A Concerto That Explores The Limitless Range of The Piano

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Sim Canetty-Clarke
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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. 

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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.

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Credit C. Philip Gatward
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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.