Concerto for Piano and Nine Instruments

For piano, flute, clarinet, trumpet, horn, violin, viola, cello, contrabass and percussion
Commissioned by Network for New Music.
April, 20th 2007
Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania
Network for New Music, Jan Krzywicki conducting.
  • Program Notes

    As in any concertante piece, one of my central concerns in Concerto for Piano and Nine Instruments was exploring the inherent possibilities for dramatic contrast and interplay between the ensemble and the soloist. The relationship between soloist and ensemble evokes in certain ways traditional concerto writing, yet its modernity is just as evident or more so. This concerto is formally set in two movements, but there are really three: a spacious, brooding, and atmospheric adagio, marked lento at the outset, provides an introduction and frame for the first movement’s allegro. The piano introduces the adagio music unaccompanied; the ensemble enters playing misterioso in response, to match in its own way the piano’s affect. After a time, the piano, in a series of phrases alternating with the ensemble, begins a gradual acceleration, transforming its character into an elegant, gracious, and highly ornamented elocution. The musical spirit and feeling of vitesse continue to increase and intensify, traversing a dancing passage for the ensemble, moving toward the movement’s culmination, and leading to a return of the adagio, whereupon the music settles over the span of a long, quiet coda. Equipped with its own piano introduction in homophonic style, the second movement is shorter and more intense, forceful in its argument, and dizzy with syncopation. The concerto was composed for Charles Abramovic and Network for New Music in Philadelphia, who gave the World Premiere performances in 2007. To compose for a combination of instruments so wonderfully rich in timbral and contrapuntal possibilities was a marvelous opportunity to let loose my imagination in all directions.


  • Vivien Schweitzer, New York Times Piano Concerto

    “Richard Festinger’s Concerto for Piano and Nine Instruments, which received its New York premiere… began with a spare adagio introduction on the piano, which became a dialogue with the ensemble… with vibrant sections interwoven with elegiac piano solos.”

    – Vivien Schweitzer, New York Times
  • Christian Carey, Musical America, Piano Concerto

    “Richard Festinger’s Concerto for Piano and Nine Instruments (2007) was a showcase for soloist Stephen Gosling. He was given virtuosic passagework aplenty, but also chances to create an impression in a more lyrical vein… The first movement, in particular, had a number of passages where widely spaced chords were allowed to “sink in,” some creating moments of repose and others pregnant with anticipation. These were counterbalanced by brilliant ensemble passages. Festinger frequently calls upon the other instruments to take up notes from the piano, sustaining lines that have begun to decay. Its a neat trick that creates a kind of antiphonal echo. The second movement was more compact in construction, distilling the essence of material introduced in the first movement into a fast-paced, dramatically hefty finale. It takes courage on a composer’s part to create such an intricate labyrinth of associations and trust that an audience will stay with a piece throughout its myriad twists and turns. The crowd at Merkin seemed well up to the task, and they greeted Festinger’s piece and Gosling’s engaging performance warmly.”

    – Christian Carey
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