It's been a blast to get back to Austin and play the Paul Bowles concerto with the UT New Music Ensemble. The more we play the piece, the more impressed I am with the freshness of the ideas and the forms. The concert is this Tuesday night at Bates Recital Hall and it should be a lot of fun!
Here is the program note I wrote for the concert.
Paul Bowles: Concerto for Two Pianos, Winds, and Percussion
The Concerto for Two Pianos, Winds, and Percussion was written in 1946-7, predating The Sheltering Sky by only a few years. On first listen its tone and affect are completely at odds with those of the famous novel, which creeps with a dark sense of anxiety and foreboding. By contrast, the Concerto effervesces with brash rhythmic energy, cabaret melodies crashing against one another, vibrant musical ideas elbowing for space. It seems nothing more or less than a grand evening on a Parisian terrace, full of songs, characters, clinking glasses. And yet at moments, in the rich ambiguity of Bowles' harmonies, still we find ourselves face to face with the mysterious and unknowable.
Bowles' stylistic reference points are familiar from contemporaneous works of Milhaud, Poulenc, and Stravinsky, but his manner of building long forms was unique. Eschewing traditional methods of motivic development, Bowles let each musical idea speak--or shout--for itself, and "develop" only through contrast and restatement. Bowles produced few extended concert works, and the present composition is his most ambitious in instrumentation and scope. This Concerto is perhaps the musical magnum opus of a brilliantly versatile creative mind.
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