Home / Compositions / Adagio



Scherzo (2007)
Adagio (2011)
Intrada (2012)


Some compositions are planned in the large, their details growing out of and refined by the guidance of an overall structure.  Others grow "organically", only gradually assuming their complete shape.  So it is with the three solo pieces I have written for the incomparable Peter Serkin:  they were composed at different times for different occasions and yet when they are assembled into a set, as we hear them here, they hang together as individual movements in a classical sonata might -- related by fundamental syntactic and musical-grammatical and expressive characteristics (sometimes called "style"), but not through overt motivic interconnection.

But I must offer one qualification.  The Intrada, the last composed of the three, does borrow some basic intervallic material from each of the other two.  This is because by the time I composed it I already knew that it would be attached to the others.  But even here, the link will be felt, not heard, since the borrowing is at such a deep generative level.

In the final assembling of the set, I wanted flexibility of ordering.  Thus the purpose of the Intrada is either one of linking or preluding.  I specify in my score that the potential six orderings of the three pieces, only two are forbidden: those where the Intrada would be last.  Thus, what we hear tonight is only one of four orderings of the three pieces.

The question of pre-planned large structure versus organic growth might raise interesting artistic and psychological issues.  It's not my place to invoke them here but I have to wonder if the results of the two approaches, when coming from the same artist, are really so crucially different?  This question is amusing for me to ponder, as one who has long been associated with the rational organization of large scale structures.

One of the great joys of my musical life has been my long association with Peter Serkin.  In addition to the three works assembled for this program I have written my Fourth Concerto for him (commissioned by James Levine and the Boston Symphony), Time Regained, a Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra (for Levine and the MET orchestra), and a shorter concerto called Flying to Kahani (for the Orchestra of Saint Lukes'). And there are several chamber works as well.  His remarkable virtuosity is always complemented by a wonderful capacity for expressive phrasing.  The great humanity of his playing makes composing for him a rare privilege.

-CW, 31.vii.2013