work: (after) pianists

(After) Pianists
(After) Pianists was written as a contribution to A Modern Menagerie, a set of responses by 14 composers to Camille Saint-Saëns’s Carnaval des Animaux. For this personal take on Pianistes (no. 11 of the fourteen-movement work), I decided to keep to the instrumentation and shortness of the original vignette, yet approached the music from a resolutely abstract point of view, drawing exclusively on its essential gestural and structural elements as stripped of their symbolism and pictoriality: upward or downward scales are distilled into mere registral rises and falls, harmonic function is recast in the light of a strictly atonal, non-figurative context. On the surface, this response to Pianistes both contrasts with and echoes its source: although the pianos persistently avoid harmonic or rhythmic synchrony, traces of the original miniature such as formal repetition or the jabbing gestures of the string ensemble, albeit much stylised, remain.

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commissioned by:
first performance:

2 pianos, strings
2′ 40″

New Music South West
St. George’s, Bristol (UK)
perf. The Bristol Ensemble
cond. John Pickard