We went to the Pittsburgh Symphony last Saturday, looking forward to another Corigliano piece, this time a TriplePlay, which the PSO gets to premiere. My first question: Has John Corigliano, in his many visits to Heinz Hall, found a closet to hide in when his piece is being performed for the first time?
Sandwiched in the program between two russian interpretations of Romeo and Juliet was this percussion concerto. And from that description alone, I had no idea what was to come, but I was looking forward to it. And as the Tchaikovsky closed and the musicians rearranged themselves, Corigliano came out to talk.
And what about? About creating a percussion concerto, of featuring instruments and sounds that normally support an orchestra. He spoke of removing sounds from the orchestra to make a part stand out, and of grouping the percussion into material groups, and prepared us for the flow of the piece to come.
And what a piece. It started with the sparseness of struck wood blocks morphing into the marimba and xylophone over strings. Ms. Glennie (percussion soloist) moved to metals, with chimes being punctuated by cymbals played as gongs. With and end of drums (skins) building in speed and volume.
There is a concept of creativity that creativity is enhanced by putting restrictions on the artist, and forcing the artist to use his/her creativity to create something inside the restrictions. That the artist struggles against the rules and constraints given can lead to something wonderful, unlike anything else. And here, stripping the range of sounds the orchestra contains and spotlighting the percussion, in its variety and sparseness, created something original and wonderful to behold.
And I hope that when Corigliano listened in his closet, that he knew on coming out that this was a piece well done.