During my early years as a composer, I put on quite a few musical soirées, and one of the most elaborate took place in October of 1983 at my home in Atlanta.
I had just purchased my first grand piano, a Kawai Classic that would continue to accompany me through life until very recently. As a consequence, for a few months in 1983 I owned two pianos. I took advantage of that by programming Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1, a work I have always cherished, with another highly skilled pianist realizing the orchestra part on the second piano. The two pianos were situated on opposite sides of the great room, with most of the audience sitting in the middle and enjoying the stereo effect. To me this kind of spatial element seems to accord well with the principle of the concerto, namely, the juxtaposition and opposition of independent instrumental forces (typically soloist and orchestra).
The second half of the program featured three of what were then my latest compositions, but very early works from today’s perspective. My first Nocturne for Piano and my Romance for Clarinet and Piano had just been completed earlier that year. The Romance was in fact my first non-piano-solo composition; that work was the predecessor to another romance I would write a couple of years later for Oboe and Piano. Finally, I invited a baritone friend of mine to perform my setting of Shakespeare’s Sonnet XVIII (the bard’s words can be seen in the program above), accompanied by another friend on the alto recorder and myself on the piano.
That evening, the house was filled to overflowing. These affairs, of course, were times not only of fine music, but also of food, relaxed conversation, enjoyment and laughter.
If you missed out on that 1983 event, you can still hear the first two of the three original compositions from the program, and the third should become available in the not too distant future. I made a recording of that first Nocturne for Piano that same year, which can still be heard today: