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Three Questions Before the First Night, by Carson Cooman

Julia Scott Carey -- Piano Concerto

American composer Julia Scott Carey (born 1986), despite her young age, is continuing to build a burgeoning career as a composer of orchestral music. She has received numerous orchestral commissions for works of all kinds, and has compositions that continue to receive repeat performances each year by orchestras around America -- making her one of the most performed young composers today. One of her most-often performed works is for narrator and orchestra, The Legend of Old Befana, based on the Christmas book by Tomie dePaola.

For the 2004-05 season, Carey has served as composer-in-residence for the Etowah Youth Orchestra of Etowah, Alabama, USA. This commendable project by the youth orchestra has allowed the orchestra's young musicians to work closely with Carey in the realization of several of her existing compositions. The residency culminates with the premiere of Carey's new Piano Concerto on the final concert of the season.

Carey's new Piano Concerto will have its world première on 15 May 2005 with the Etowah Youth Orchestra under the direction of Michael Gagliardo.

OneCarson Cooman: Many of your previous works have had programmatic titles or inspirations. Is there any such inspiration behind this new piano concerto?

Julia Scott Carey: My first half dozen or so orchestral works were written for specific orchestras for specific occasions, and, as I was quite young, I frequently found it helpful to consider a literary work or an historical event or site related to the performance. Not only did this very concrete programmatic inspiration help me to think in terms of structure and mood and color, but it also helped in facilitating a connection with the audience. It is my suspicion, however, that a great deal, if not most, music, is 'programmatic', even though not identified as such. The inspiration may be private or personal and never known or drawn from an abstract emotion or idea. The non-musical ideas that contribute, consciously or subconsciously, to musical works generally go unclaimed.

In my piano concerto, as in most of my recent works, the inspiration behind the piece is more abstract. The emotional coloration is without a subject but not without an object, the object being the use of tonal color and shadow to communicate an emotional expression.

TwoCC: Although this is your first concerto with a single soloist, a number of your previous orchestral works have been concertante works with multiple soloists. What is attractive to you about concerti?

JSC: I find concertante works with multiple soloists to be the most exciting format for a composer. The expression can range from the intimacy of a single voice to a tightly-woven chamber group to two battling ensembles to an overwhelming tutti. More than the numerical range in forces used is the range of color, texture, and mood. In this format, it's possible to build not just multiple layers of voices, but also multiple layers of motion and emotion.

Although my piano concerto represents my first concerto with a single soloist, I personally don't view it that way. For me, the piano has always held an entire orchestra within the single instrument.

ThreeCC: You are a pianist yourself and continue to be active as a solo and chamber musician. How did you approach writing a concerto for 'your own' instrument?

JSC: The piano concerto literature has figured in, in fact been central to, my music education. When I sat down to write my piano concerto, I wanted the piano to serve not just as the heart of the piece but also as the wings, empowering, lifting, and directing the orchestra forward. While I was very much aware of the literature, I wanted to make sure that I brought to this traditional format a new voice and a new perspective, and part of that was to utilize the vast variety of voices and nuances and gestures of the instrument itself. I was especially pleased that the comment I received from my soloist on seeing the work for the first time was that the new concerto 'exploits the piano, in the best possible sense'.

Copyright © 26 April 2005 Carson P Cooman, Rochester, NY, USA





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