This article was originally published on AUGUST 10, 2011
A few weeks ago, I received an email out of the blue from a complete stranger, Jim Semadeni, from Kansas City, asking if he could listen to my piano concertos. Oh, how I love the internet! Someone who loves piano concertos can google “piano concerto” and, somehow or other, find himself at the website of a composer he has probably never heard of, send said composer an email, and—just like that!—a new connection is made.
One of my summer projects has been to post sound files of as much of my music as possible on this website, and little by little, I am getting this accomplished. The joy of this is largely in getting to revisit older pieces which I might not have listened to in years—and in recognizing that they deserve to be heard more. My Concerto for Piano and Wind Ensemble, from 1994, is one of those. In fact, just a couple of months ago, I had asked Umberto Belfiore, our recording tech at UCLA, to transfer a bunch of older pieces from cassette tape to digital format. So when I got Jim Semadeni’s email, I had the piece ready to post, and I posted it later that night. Thanks, Jim, for the nudge!
I got the idea for writing this piece in 1993, when it suddenly came to me what fun it would be to write a concerto for pianist Antoinette Perry, whose playing I love. At the time, we were colleagues at UCLA, and she had performed several of my pieces, always beautifully. I figured I’d have a better chance of getting performances of the piece if it were for wind ensemble, rather than for orchestra, and besides, as a wind player, I have an affinity for writing for winds. I always enjoy exploring ways to create new colors with such a diverse palette as winds and percussion provide.
It was, indeed, a lot of fun to write this piece, and after years of hearing it only in my head from time to time, I am delighted to hear it aloud again. The passage of 17 years makes it seem almost as if I was not the one who wrote the piece: I have written much music since then and feel myself, in many ways, to be a different composer and a different person now. But it is so nice to hear old music and be able to say, “I like that! I am so glad I wrote it!”
Here is a recording of its first performance, with Antoinette Perry playing with the UCLA Wind Ensemble, conducted by Thomas Lee. There have been two subsequent performances, and I hope that the magic of the internet will lead to many more.
Concerto for piano and wind ensemble, 1994