II Koncert fortepianowy (Piano Concerto no. 2) - Agata Zubel International Festival of Contemporary Music Warsaw Autumn

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II Koncert fortepianowy (Piano Concerto no. 2) - Agata Zubel

The foundations of the Piano Concerto no. 2 are built on “classical” structures: the piece is in three parts, as in a conventional concerto, with a slow and beautiful second section, delicate and muted. Zubel then drapes and fills these parameters with contemporary elements: swathes of microtonal harmonic colour decorate and infiltrate the traditional framework in a way that sets up a fascinating tension between the old and the new, creating moments of contrast and even confrontation. 

Agata Zubel composed her second Piano Concerto with its soloist, Tomoko Mukaiyama, in mind. The two musicians happened to be participating in the same festival in Italy, where they listened to one another perform; Zubel soon realised that Tomoko Mukaiyama’s engaging and dynamic mode of performance would be ideally suited to the theatrical character of a concerto that uses two pianos. This is a piece in which visual as well as aural elements are used to dramatic effect: the physicality of the artist moving between two keyboards—and two sets of pedals—creates a visual spectacle matched by the ebb and flow of the music. Agata Zubel explores the shifting relationship between soloist and orchestra throughout the Concerto. There are moments when the pianist’s hands correlate with the orchestral material—as though choreographing its slow glissandi, for example— but in other passages, both the nature of this relationship, and the movements of the soloist between the two pianos, have a free and spontaneous quality. Occasionally, the exchanges between pianist and ensemble bubble over into conflict, but ultimately the soloist is in charge. 

© Joanna Wyld 

The publisher of the Piano Concerto no. 2 by Agata Zubel is PWM Edition.