It was some weeks prior to our Spanish and Latin American concert that Jayant Sankrityayana decided that our next project should be a concert featuring Leo Brouwer’s music.
My first encounter with Concerto de Toronto was in December 2016 when Rosemary E and Jayant were recording the concerto in Mazda Hall and I was called to page turn for Rosemary. At that time, I noticed how Rose was almost improvising a truncated version of the piano reduction. It was not until I started learning the part myself that I realised the enormity of the monster I chose to tackle!
This was my first piece for the guitar and piano, my first piece by Leo Brouwer and my first piece using substantial amount of modal harmonies, especially the Lydian mode.
In the official reduction, even if many parts were still playable, they were too difficult to execute musically on the piano or too dense in texture to get a meaningful sound out of it. It was here that the challenge came. I had to listen to the orchestral recording several times ingraining the music in my head then studying the piano reduction and simplify the piano reduction to musically resemble what the orchestra sounds like.
Jayant, after his morning 4am practice and exercise normally waits at Starbucks for his ride to work at around 7am. It was at these times that I used to sometimes meet him and discuss the musical interpretation and other details over some black coffee.
Although I have played a few 20-21st century works, none have come close to complexity in time signatures as this one. On one occasion there is 3/4, 4/4, 3/8, 5/8 3/4, 4/4 appearing consecutively with irregular rhythms throughout. At such times, the only way was to literally ‘mug up’ the sound of the passage with the metronome, practicing on every bpm from 30 through 108! There were times when I felt like giving up, but then the sheer beauty of the modal harmonies that Brouwer wrote, pulled me towards practicing it even more.
The 1st movement, though relentless in both the piano and guitar parts has this breath of freshness into it and a perpetual momentum, making it a challenging to learn but extremely satisfying to play.
This concerto has a cyclic structure to it, i.e. ideas from the 1st movement are seen throughout the other movements. There are several times when some of the orchestral sections are so similar in the 1st and 3rd movements that in many of the practice rehearsals I interchanged the two, making Jayant wonder what had just happened!
I am extremely excited to play my first Guitar-piano work. This has inspired me to write a work for Guitar-piano, which I will be premiering soon!
And lastly I would like to thank my friend, Mr. Metronome, without whom I wouldn’t have been able to get most of the piece learnt.
Dedication : Leo Brouwer, a tribute concert to Leo Brouwer will be performed at Mazda Hall, Camp, Pune on the Oct 6th at 7 PM.