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Concerto pour piano DIFFERENT SPACES

Baptiste Trotignon - Baptiste Trotignon

Jazz - 11/09/2015

Beyond my improvisation works between jazz and Afro- American music, I always loved to confront myself to European masters, composers and creators of universes that fed me, inspired me and made me dream, whatever forms music took under my fingers on the piano; a way to feel close to them, to walk with them and learn to speak the same language.

The genesis of my Concerto pour Piano is a story full of encounters. My identity is based on my European culture with my love for the Afro-or South- American culture and more generally all this rhythmic culture coming from these 20th century kinds of music, most of the time not present in the popular European music (except in some regions: Central Europe and Spain with flamenco). The warmth of these pulsations is indispensable to me. From a human point of view, Nicholas Angelich’s: we shared the stage during the premiere of a Frédéric Verrières piece in 2003, written for an orchestra, a soloist piano and a jazz trio. We have been in contact since then, discretely but faithfully, during years, sometimes meeting for a concert, or a good meal… Beyond his talent and his great instrumental skills we don’t have to introduce anymore, I always loved his deep sincerity and his innate sense of freedom on the piano, at the same time concerning the sounds and the expressive intention coming from his interpretations.

During 2010, I felt this desire to write for larger forms than what I used to work with until now in particular and essentially following jazz. I’ve been writing music since my teenage years, but the eternal dissatisfaction pushing artists to search elsewhere they were started to make me feel a kind of limitation in this language – which of course is everything but limited! To be more precise and avoid this way simplistic remarks: I’m only speaking of an inner sensation concerning my skills to give and create. The idea of a Piano Concerto comes spontaneously to me, natural junction between my instrument and this European “classic” culture that has been inspiring me for years. I want immediately to avoid being the “jazz pianist writing his own Concerto” to privilege the idea to affirm my composer vision and I therefore choose NOT being myself the interpret of this piece. Curiously, I, like many of us, often fighting with many useless doubts and fears, didn’t hesitate to offer this project to Nicholas, and I call him immediately: "I want to write a Piano Concerto for you"! With his beautiful voice, nonchalant and generous, he dropped a big "Oh my God!”, and we met right after to speak about it more precisely. He agrees, asking me just full of humility not to forget to take into account his soloist schedule parameters! And in a complete trust, still surprising me, I admit it, the adventure starts; I had only written a few pieces for string instruments and other “classical” instrumentations.

The writing took me almost a year, not exclusive of course because shared with all the different aspects of a musician’s life), between moments of exaltation and despairs after fruitless and sleepless nights…Suddenly, the adventure became reality and not a dream anymore with Paul-Arnaud Pejouan’s interest for the project, and short after by Charles Guivarch’s and the Orchestre National de Bordeaux-Aquitaine’s. A premiere date of the work will be fixed for November 2012. Let’s go! I would like here to greet two composers who helped with some clever pieces of advice and simply encouraged me accepting to give me some hours and examine my waste scores : Bernard Cavanna and his well-mastered madness (and also my former director when I was a student at the Conservatoire de Genevilliers) and Philippe Hersant and his rare refinement.

Concerning the piece in itself: Different Spaces (beyond the reference to Steve Reich)… because spaces created through composition are different from these created by my mostly habitual way of expression, and perhaps also because the possible creation space in different heritage mixes always enchanted me deeply. Understand differences, our differences, from a culture to another, from a custom to another, it’s simply the best way to know and understand what we are ourselves. We can this way develop a style, an aesthetic form we improve, sculpt around for years.

As a first important piece I write for an orchestra, this Concerto is at the same time a goal since it syncretises numerous musical obsessions and researches, and an introduction to other fantasies to be composed. I didn’t have the intention to put or renew all the inherent codes to this form, simply to use several of them during the development of musical ideas. The same way, I didn’t wish to make the soloist show his virtuosity in excess, so the cadenza at the end of the last movement around a repeated note and a choir is rather a manifestation of “non-virtuosity”.

We can probably hear in it many inspiration sources, East composers, American music from the 20th century, with numerous references to this elegance “à la française” I particularly appreciate, but on the other side with a very few allusions to jazz in the aesthetic, essentially because the essence of the Afro-American language itself lies on two elements, absent from interpretation modes of a classical orchestra: swing ( a certain conception of rhythms and dance ) and the expressivity of blues .

The piece is built I in four movements but is clearly articulated in two parts: the first two movements are continuous to a brilliant final, almost noisy- and the forth, tied to the central Adagio, ends also with an Agitato Accelerando until the final rupture. I wanted, from the first piano notes at the very beginning, to indicate this attachment to “noble dissonances” as I like to call them, here a 9th minor flattened false relation within a phrase developing into slow arabesques around a calm melody. Soon after, appears on the piano the main theme evolving and moving with the orchestra’s changing colours to disappear progressively in its developments. Brass instruments play a choral as a cadenza and lead us to the epilogue evocating the almost pentatonic melody from the introduction and announces the second movement motifs, a kind of neoclassical Scherzo, ludic and nostalgic at the same time (youth loves!). The following slow movement is a bit my Eusebius, in a lunar and crazy version, vital respiration before the run of the forth and last movement, conceived in a “single breath”, like something quite epic that would erase the story that happened before.

Piano pieces completing this album were written especially for the occasion. Conceived like two small tryptics, focusing in particular on Trois Préludes pour piano seul on very sensual sonorities by Nicholas. In these three pieces I tried to evoke under different forms a kind of nostalgia, rather dark but never too much, “Kind of blue” would say some connoisseurs… “Kind of grey” is perhaps here more appropriate. A play on lights…

In Trois Pièces pour deux pianos I played along with Nicholas on the second piano, a way to put into matter this common story. The first one is a small tribute, almost a game, to the American repetitive minimalist music; the second one is a slower and more ecstatic piece, mysterious; the third one – with its allusion to Beethoven on the first bars has a more motoric nature, with some rarely used rhythms in this “classical” form of expression and where I allowed myself to improvise a few jazz lines on a few bars, like coming full circle …

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