Where are the new piano concertos?

Over coffee recently in Berlin, Kirill Gerstein and I fell to contemplating the absence of piano concertos in the 21st century.

Recent efforts by John Adams and Esa-Pekka Salonen failed to excite the public imagination. Others by Magnus Lindberg, Kalevi Aho, Harrison Birtwistle, Frederic Rzewski and Luca Francesconi achieved even less impact.

Last night at the Royal Festival Hall, Kirill gave the UK premiere of a piano concerto by Thomas Adès, with the composer conducting.

It had almost everything one could wish for in a piano concerto – an arresting Gershwinian opening rhythm, some crumping Bartok note clusters and a wisp or two of Ligeti – all this in the first five minutes and 17 still to come. The middle movement has real narrative power, a gift for storytelling rare in postmodern orchestral music and the finale comes to a climax with a totally absorbing duet between piano and xylophone, a wonderful tease for the ears.

Gerstein made it all sound ridiculously easy, the composer conducted and the London Philharmonic sounded in reasonable shape.

To start the concert, however, the LPO gave so noisy, ragged and incoherent an account of Sibelius’s Night Ride and Sunrise with Adès in the podium that I was left wondering whether the concerto itself might not have sounded stronger under a different orchestra and conductor.

Either way, I want to hear the Adès concerto again soon, preferably in a festival setting for which it is ideally suited.

It could be the 21st century piano concerto we’re all looking for.

 

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  • New piano concerto by Brett Dean to be premiered on 13 February 2020 in Stockholm with Jonathan Biss, piano / Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra / David Afkham

    • Biss is certainly doing his bit for new piano concertos: in’14 he premiered the concerto Bernard Rands wrote for him (which is now available on Lyrita).

  • It was good to hear the concerto last night, and like much else of what Adès has written, it would be worth hearing again.

  • It maybwell be that the other side of the pond has not been exposed to the premieres and recordings of new concertos for piano and orchestras in the US, and two adding chorus in the case of William Bolcom and Jake Runestad. This has been a twenty year effort to help contribute compositions covering a variety of composers and styles and I am happy to share them here for pianists today and future performers: Ellen Taaffe Zwilich ‘Millennium Fantasy’ (premiere: Cincinnati Symphony) and ‘Shadows’ (Premiere: Louisiana Philharmonic); Millennium Fantasy recorded for Naxos; Lowell Liebermann ‘Concerto no. 3 (premiere: Milwaukee Symphony); Richard Danielpour ‘Concerto: Mirrors’, (premiere: Pacific Symphony), Kenneth Fuchs ‘Spiritualist’ (recorded with London Symphony/Falletta; Grammy winner 2019; premiere: Springfield Symphony, MA);!Lucas Richman ‘Piano Concerto: In Truth’ (recorded with Pittsburgh Symphony; premiere: Knoxville Symphony); William Bolcom ‘Prometheus’ (premiere and recorded with Pacific Symphony /Pacific Chorale); Christopher Theofanidis ‘Concerto no. 2’ (based on poems by Rumi; premiere: Harrisburg Symphony); Jake Runestad ‘Dreams of the Fallen’ (premiere: Louisiana Philharmonic and Chorus), Charles Strouse ‘Concerto America’ (premiere: Boston Pops; a contemporary classical work hardly known. Charles was a pupil of Aaron Copland, Nadia Boulanger and Arthur Berger); PDQ Bach ‘Concerto for Simply Grand Piano and Orchestra’ (premiere: Colorado Symphony) and more. Two new works for 2020-21: Daniel Perttu’s’A Planets Odyssey’ and, Jim Stephenson’s’Water’. Hope this is helpful for the cause of new music.

    • John Adams: “Century Rolls,” written for Emanuel Ax (and the gorgeous gymnopedie of a second movement is actually titled “Manny’s Gym”).

      • Yes! And Chris Rouse told me on the phone that his piano concerto is there for the taking. Manny played that too, but it is very challenging. Also, shy of the bridge between the 20th and 21st centuries is a wonderful concerto by Lalo Schifrin, which he composed for the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus. The now defunct Steinway Foundation commissioned it, with Schedrin’s and LowelI Liebermann’s 2nd. Lalo conducted our recording in Germany.

    • I can add a few to the list like Balakorev’s ‘Islamey Fantasy’ for piano and orchestra (arranged by yours truly), some lighter fare but effective for specific programs: Claude Bolling ‘Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano’ with orchestra, added by jazz artist, Steve Barta, Giovanni Allevi‘Concerto’ (beautiful and weightier than his shorter compositions), songwriter Jimmy Webb’s hauntingly beautiful ‘Nocturne’, and for programs featuring works by songwriters like Webb, add Neil Sedaka’s ‘Manhattan Intermezzo’. There are others, like the new ‘Peanuts Concerto’ based on Vince Guaraldi’s legendary music, arranges by Nashville composer Dick Tunney. With our new open minded 21st-century views and acceptance of multi-styles, I have made sure there is something to suit many purposes.

  • Can’t wait to hear it, but it should be observed that Adès had already written the first great piano concerto of this century, i.e., ‘In Seven Days’. It’s a masterpiece.

  • The Venezuelan pianist and composer Gabriela Montero is our current Artist in Residence at the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, and last week treated us to a wonderful performance of her own Piano Concerto No.1, the “Latin” (followed by two breathtaking improvisations).

    The work was premiered at the Gewandhaus in 2017 with the MDR and K. Järvi, and has since been played by the composer to great acclaim at the Klavier Festival Ruhr, Elbphilharmonie, Salzburg, Frankfurt, National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico, Teatro del Lago Chile, Miami, Carnegie Hall and the BSO, among others.

    It was just released on disc by Orchid Classics and is enjoying glowing reviews: “the most viscerally exciting contemporary concerto I’ve heard”, writes the Artsdesk this week.

    Luckily you don’t have to take my word for it. You can hear it for yourself here, on this live broadcast by ARTE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofL3E9dF6C4

  • Don’t forget Mark-Anthony Turnage’s piano concerto. Premiered and recorded in 2013 by the Rotterdam Philharmonic /Nezet-Seguin and Marc-André Hamelin

  • Does Trifonov’s concerto count as “21st century”? 😉

    (asked with a wink because so many references were made to its Rachmaninovian flavor)

  • Hans Abrahamsen’s left hand concerto.

    But the problem isn’t that there aren’t new piano concertos. It’s just that, like most new music, the audience doesn’t really want to hear it. And there’s little logic to a soloist learning a phenomenally difficult new concerto which no-one will ever ask the to play.

    Michael Nyman’s concerto derived from “The Piano” was genuinely popular for a spell a few years ago…but that doesn’t count, does it?

    • If the audience don’t want to hear them, then the composers must go back to the drawing board and make better music. It can be as simple as that.

  • Maybe the description says it all:

    “It had almost everything one could wish for in a piano concerto – an arresting Gershwinian opening rhythm, some crumping Bartok note clusters and a wisp or two of Ligeti – all this in the first five minutes and 17 still to come.”

    If these are the things one could wish for, maybe the type of wish is wrong in the first place: effects without a cause.

    Adès is a clever and courageous composer, but everything is on the surface, including his ‘tonal bits’ and orchestral effects. Whatever I heard from his hands, cannot disguise the emptiness underneath, but he is not to be blamed: it is our time.

    • John, I have spent twenty years + working on developing the repertoire for piano and orchestra. What I have strived most toward is music which does not lean on or point to the recent past, but music which immediately goes for the heart of the listener. Harmony, melody, rhythm. You get one shot at it with each piece, and it is usually in the first two minutes at most. For one year or so, I have coined a term which I believe applies to the trends of music we are in now, which is only in its infancy: Neo-Impressionism. Perhaps one of the finest exponents of this is Kenneth Fuchs. While one can say his music is ‘American’, whatever that means to anyone these days, he also does what Gershwin did in tipping the hat to French impressionism with a melodic invention that is fused with an harmonic language which juxtaposes harmonies uniquely his own. Taking it further with the next generation, composer Daniel Perttu is in this sonic landscape in his writings. I say it over and over again: the audience has to leave with a melody in their mind, their heart and their entire body, like we used to say, ‘I can’t get that melody out of my mind!’

  • Hans Abrahamsen wrote a very fine left-hand concerto in 2015, while the Belgian Philippe Boesmans wrote a Capriccio for 2 pianos and orchestra in 2011 (very very beautiful) and “Fin de Nuit” for the frenchman David Kadouch just last year.

    The last two works were recently recorded in a CD by the Orchestre philharmonqiue de Liège – check it out!

  • The last new piano concerto to secure a place in the active repertoire was the Samuel Barber Concerto, which dates from 1962. So that’s nearly 60 years since the appearance of a viable new piano concerto – and that’s the longest dry spell since the creation of the form.

    • The Ligeti and Lutoslawski concerti, both coincidentally from 1988, also get played regularly if not frequently, and for good reason.

  • Thomas Adès’ new Concerto for Piano is a splendid piece! The Boston Symphony Orchestra and Kirill Gerstein gave its thrilling world premiere last March with the composer at the podium.

    To judge by that concert, which also featured the 1st Mephisto Waltz as well as Tchaikovsky 4, as well as the several others that the BSO’s Artistic Partner has conducted, the LPO’s problems with Sibelius on Wednesday evening were likely not about Adès’ conducting. He’s a triple threat: hardly less acute, precise, thoughtful, or inspired with the baton than the piano or the pen.

    I can’t claim to have heard all the new works for piano and orchestra in the pipeline (although the Adams and Dieter Ammann’s are imminent with the BSO), but after the Adès the first thought I had was that this may be the greatest piano concerto of the nascent century.

    • I heard the Ammann piece last night with the BSO-it’s a gripping wild ride. The Adams is being performed in Boston by the LA Phil, not the BSO. I would also add to the list pieces by Dalvabie and Andrew Norman.

  • Why not mention the piano concerto written just a short time ago by Michel Legrand.

    All of the recently written works just lack appeal and beyond that of the premiere will struggle to find another performance.

    Composers are trying to reinvent the wheel and many just do not have a true melodic ability which all but dooms these works right out of the gate.

    Orchestras have a bottom line to think about and modern composers are not going to contribute to that. The commissions are there to show that the orchestra is looking to the future but it it really another box to tick.

    The average concert goer is not going to come back if they are constantly bombarded with music that is doa.

  • Norman,

    Composer Yehudi Wyner wrote a rocking good piano concerto titled “Chiavi in Mano,” which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2006. Controversy about the Pulitzer aside, it’s a wonderful work, and should be performed more. I’m sorry you didn’t know about this before your meeting with KG. He’d play the holy heck out of it.

  • Although from 1992, pianists should have a look at Lalo Schifrin’s Concerto no. 2: The Americas. Lalo is still very much alive, and one of the finest composers we have had.

    • Jeffrey. Rather than add to your already long list of pieces which have been played once or twice and then dropped. Would it not be better to commit to two-or-three pieces you want to champion and to give them a real chance to win an audience for themselves?

      • I see it differently. It is about building repertoire for the future. If I stopped at two or three pieces and pushed them to death, either a few more performances might happen, or orchestras would get annoyed with the same two or three constantly being pushed, and, pieces like the Kenneth Fuchs Concerto might not have been born and not have received a Grammy award. It is about continuum of repertoire, not about me or the individual pieces. It is up to the conductors and orchestras to seek out the vast array of music commissioned since the beginning of this millennium, and then see which ones they opt to program. It is also interesting that most new pieces do not reach their success with multiple performances until several decades have passed. This is just my vision of this scenario, but I do understand yours fully and wish it would be that easy. No orchestra or conductor jumps on a new piece that quickly.

  • Thank you for your comments about the Sibelius! I was there last night too, I’ve been reading the other reviews today, and nobody seems to have mentioned it at all, which maybe tells its own story. I’ve noticed at other concerts conducted by Adès that when he performs his own music it sounds great, but when he conducts other people’s music his own preoccupations rub off on them – quirky dynamics, disjointed rhythms, and a constant sense of teetering at the edge of sincerity but never actually letting itself go (all of which in the case of his own music, including this piano concerto, I happen to rather like). This was even the case in the Beethoven series he did at the Barbican over the past couple of years. The only thing I can compare it to is an experience I had at a restaurant in Germany a while back, in which I was served a fruit salad prepared with a knife that had previously been used to chop onions. It still looked beautiful, but tasted entirely wrong.

  • If you look at any current concert pianist with a significant performing career, they are playing from a short list of well-known concertos.

    In this lies another problem. Since their livelihood comes from performing, they are not going to spend valuable time learning works that they are going to honestly perform only a few times. Unless there is a significant monetary award involved the motivation for purely artistic reasons is not going to be there.

    Most modern composers either have to work in a university setting or live on grants as most do not have the ability to work in a commercial setting.

    As people continue to list rare unheard works by this person and that they still are not going to be performed. An orchestra is not going to program an unknown work from an unknown composer on a subscription program. The works either fulfill a commission requirement or have some other ties to the orchestra.

    It is a viscous cycle but one that is not going to end any time soon. Most modern works are not going to make a profit on a label either which also helps to negate them to obscurity.

    • Jon, you bring up many valid points. For young pianists, or any instrumentalists, the pressures today to have the core repertoire at the ready is stronger than ever due to too many players vs. fewer opportunities. But, there is a much bigger picture here. In many years to come, people will ask the same question as this post suggests, ‘where are the new concertos??’ I believe it is our duty to be part of the continuum of the evolution of music. Whether or not we play the piece(s) once, twice, three times, or more than 20 times, which I have done with my commissioning projects (the first with Ellen Taaffe Zwilich was the first largest consortium ever assembled), we have contributed to that continuum regardless of how loften we personally play the piece(s) nor for monetary gain. I have raised more than $600,000 for composers, almost a dozen composers, recordings and one by Ken Fuchs garnered a Grammy win. It is about this evolution that drives me, personally, to do this. I will say this, that working with so many living composers has enhanced how I relate to dead composers and their music. Bach, Mozart, and the like have become much more human to me, and that has affected how I perform and record their music. This is a fantastic post by Norman, and one which needs to be developed further.

      • Very impressive efforts….. should be normal across music life. And that is not the case. Your work is truly admirable!

        • You are too kind. I think it is not necessary to be commended for the things we do which we feel the instinctive need to do. It’s a normal procedure, and right of passage, so to speak. But it is a tremendous endeavor which is ongoing and does require much time, unpaid hours, but the reward of seeing the composer step on to the stage after the first performance is priceless.

          • Sorry Jeffrey, but I think you are contributing to the problem rather than solving it. We have more than enough new pieces being composed, and then performed once (or if we are lucky, twice). What we don’t have is someone deciding which of these pieces need to be given a chance to join the repertoire by being played more than a few times and over several seasons.

            To be honest, if someone like you said: “this is the best piece from the last 25 years…and I want to spend this year playing it” then I will pay attention. If it is yet another new commission, I won’t bother.

          • I have gone that route in the beginning, with Lowell Liebermann’s fabulous Third Concerto and others. Unfortunately, on the whole, orchestras and conductors do not jump at a new piece, which often takes many years, if not decades, to gain recognition over a few sporadic performances over time, or when another pianist takes it on. My job as steward is to help bring new music to the repertoire for the future. Of course, it is nice when new pieces get more play. But this is why I created the first largest commissioning project in 2000 which had 27 orchestras on board. I believe in having consortiums with as many orchestras as possible tpo keep the cost down per orchestra for the commission. This is also guarantees multiple performances. The League of American Orchestras followed this idea after the Zwilich Millennium Project and what had been planned to be the first 50 state project with Charles Strouse’s ‘Concerto America’ project (which I stopped right after 9-11-2001 and maintained two performances of that work) with their Made in America project. Again, this is about repertoire, not me as an individual artist.

      • I guess the true question would be is that in the end the pieces on their own do not last. One can be the champion of new works but if they are not picked up on their own by others compounds the problem. I think that the standard pieces are already well-worn and the new ones are not making the grade. I do understand the validity in new music and how each new era brings new ideas and such but many just do not have an appeal that will endure them to others. To me, if you need to explain why a work is valid you have already lost. As I said before it is a broken cycle with no ready solution. People in academic positions continue to pursue avenues that are not working and lead students down the same rabbit hole. As I stated above, orchestras are not going to gamble on rarities if it affects their bottom line. CD and recordings are great for those who also try to separate themselves from the norm or to stand out in some way. One can look to piano competitions that commission works that are forgotten after that round has past. Whether one wants to admit it or not…people need bottoms in seats in order to survive and if they do not possess any other means for compensation the new will give way to the old. It’s a shame that new music must try to do something new for the sake of being new. Why can’t people just write quality music without it being hampered by meeting certain criteria. All one has to do today is look at how many top orchestras are playing film scores to live projection to see that they are trying to get/retain an audience.

        • Good points. I must say, however, I have never had to validate the commissioned works. Some do get more than the consortium performance e.g. Ellen Zwilich’s ‘Millennium Fantasy’, Lucas Richman’s ‘Concerto: In Truth’, Giovanni Allevi’s ‘Concerto’, Richard Danielpour’s ‘Mirrors’, Jake Runestad’s ‘Dreams of the Fallen’ etc. One very important point to bring out, is that new works often do not see the bright light of day for years, if not decades, following their initial performance(s). Some of Bach’s greatest masterpieces took a very long time to be picked up for performances, ditto the rest of the great compositions by composers. Quite often, new works are panned by the critics (Lexicon of the Musical Invective is a good read), and they get picked up as brilliant works many decades later. Samuel Barber’s Piano Concerto did not enjoy as many performances in his lifetime as it does now, ditto Leroy Anderson’s ‘Concerto in C’. Cesar Cui destroyed a young Rachmaninoff in his review of Serge’s first symphony, and in the cases of Tschaikowsky and Rachmaninoff and Prokofieff, there were few performances by them of their concertos. That did not guarantee future success. We make sure there are new works moreso for the future, not the present. That is a challenging sentence to say, but having done this for twenty years, I believe it to be true.

        • “People in academic positions continue to pursue avenues that are not working and lead students down the same rabbit hole.”

          Academia is always late and fosters conventionality and conformism.

          And then, in former times there was some sort of ‘filter’, the parameters of which were defined by a tradition, however flexible and changing all the time. But there were certain fundamental restraints which kept, for instance, Stravinsky’s odd concerto for piano and winds together with the Rachmaninoff concertos and the Ravel concertos within the bounderies of a performing culture and tradition. That filter has gone, there is nothing offering a quality standard, not even a basis. This utmost ‘democracy’ means that any valuable new work will not be understood as such, because there is no longer a background against which it can be measured – and no composer wants to be measured by the traditional repertoire (this is the reason that there are hardly any serious composers nowadays who dare to write in a style where comparisons are quickly made, while there are numerous painters working in ‘oldfashioned’ realist styles).

      • What a precious work you do, Mr. Biegel! It was the same concerning my concerto: If the soloist hadn’t insisted and „collected“ at least five orchestras, I wouldn’t have undertaken this, composing almost three years on one piece. So, it’s important (and beautiful) when composers and interpreters go together!

        • Thank you, Dieter. You understand this because you are a composer. And I congratulate you on your concerto. Didn’t Andreas play it in Boston recently, if I read correctly? Yes, I know it is a three year endeavor for you. These days, gathering five orchestras for a commission is not so easy. When I did these commissions in the 2000s, we had 27 orchestras in one project, then 18, 10, etc. I still believe this is sure way to get initial performances of a new work to get it out there in the beginning.

  • This Adès concerto is a big pile of shit.

    Don’t get me wrong I love ‘modern’ music, nobody’s mentioned the Maxwell Davies Piano Concerto which is a tough nut.

  • Rodion Shchedrin wrote 5 piano concertos, premier Russian composer and still alive. Ollie Mustanen performs and record them, also Denis Matsuev

  • Maybe there are just few truly great composers around these days? And what most contemporary composers do write – whether piano concertos or otherwise – most people don’t really care to hear, or hear once and don’t care to hear again.

    If I had a choice between attending two concerts, the first featuring a program of, say, Mozart’s 20th Piano Concerto and Beethoven’s 4th or 5th, and the second featuring a couple concertos by the contemporary composers listed above, I’d be attending the first concert (and there wouldn’t have been a moment’s hesitation in that choice).

    • The main reason of the negative outcome of such comparison is that the ‘old’ repertoire has some kind of emotional, psychological depth, an expressive dimension which cannot be rationally constructed. But so many contemporary composers stop at a constructed surface – it merely reflects modern culture and the materialist mindset reigning supreme.

  • A very nice discussion. Rautavaara’s 3rd Piano Concerto (1998) is just out of reach.
    On the other hand, nobody mentions Penderecki’s Piano Concerto…

    • That is a very strange piece, indulging in desperate chromaticism which is very tiring on the ear:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fj8GJ0LsTL8:

      Penderecki converted from atonal modernism to traditional tonality, often inspired by the Russians. That was a great improvement, but it also shows how difficult it is to master a totally different tradition.

  • Like it or not, most audiences just do not respond positively to modern concertos. I’ve been to concerts where even old works, like the Prokofieff 2nd or 5th, struggle to find acceptance. Around the world, people still cherish and get thrills from Beethoven 5th, Tchaikovsky 1st, Brahms 2nd, Rachmaninoff 2nd and 3rd, Grieg, Schumann and few others. If some brave pianist were to resurrect and perform the last three Rubinstein concertos, audiences would respond to them far better than they will any modern concerto I’ve heard. It must be hard to be a composer nowadays, but all the technique and inspiration in the world cannot overcome the lack of human emotion that those old, 19th c composers had in abundance. Sadly, audience tastes and ability to listen have not kept up with composition.

    • And two pieces I like very much which I am working on to get out there (conductors, if you are reading) are Dana Suesse’s ‘Symphonic Waltzes; and Eduard Kunnecke’s ‘Concerto no. 1’. I like your mention of the Rubinstein works too. There are indeed many neglected works, which, at one time, the pianist Michael Ponti recorded for Vox. Many concertos.

    • It’s not ‘keeping up with composition’ but hoping for some beauty and meaning. The rejection of the tonal tradition by many 20C composers resulted in a grey materialist ugliness, and audiences – in general – simply compare their experiences. I am always amazed about the tolerance and meek goodwill of most audiences – the boo’s of the past are never heard. Also, the notion of beauty got a bad name, as if it always had to be ‘kitsch’. 20C avantgarde is itself a very kitschy business, forced upon audiences with the instruction to leave behind their bourgeois tastes and try to appreciate the music of their own time. The idea that the music of their own time could be in serious decline is simply explained away with the klischee: they don’t understand it.

  • Since you have specified the twenty-first century, I will bypass Macmillan’s The Berserking and go to his third concerto, which I think is superior to his (nonetheless good) second. It is not an easy listen, but it is also not needlessly difficult. I was also quite impressed by Hugh Wood’s when I heard it in a BBC concert relay with Joanna Macgregor, to which I listened twice.

    • This is a similar case for Lowell Liebermann. After hearing the world premiere of his 3rd concerto, Lowell’s first words backstage were ‘the 3rd will give the 2nd a run for its money’. But the 2nd is wonderful. The 3rd should be played by every living young pianist on the concert circuit, and on the list of major competitions for the concerto round.

      • Hyperion has already started to make an impression on neglected works from the past. It would be interesting to know how well this is going. The link is to their website with an ongoing effort to record neglected concertos from the past and more recent efforts of not long past composers.

        https://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/s.asp?s=S_1

        Norman,

        I thought that you would be all over this?

    • Joanna MacGregor is popular with modernist composers because she is one of the few pianists who really does play their stuff. That she often does not play the written notes, makes no difference in the result.

  • Most audiences would prefer to just hear “The Emporer” and Rachy 3 (or 2) , over and over and over. Crappy classical radio has proven that point.

    • I am not sure you are correct. While I enjoy both pieces I really don’t want to hear them more than once every two-or-three years; I want to hear other stuff too. I suspect most regular concert goers are similar.

  • The Concerto world premiered in Boston, if I am not mistaken. I was not at Symphony Hall, but heard it transmitted live via the local classical station online. A great Concerto it is! here is to hoping it will be taken up by many more pianists and orchestras!

  • I don’t think it’s so much the repertoire has been/is being written these days, or the composers, but simply the fact the very little music written today will ever be as popular is music written before the 1970s or 80s, especially in the realm of concertos.

    • Let’s see which ones are popular in 2119. Hopefully, we will have a spiritual life to take a look down on the earthly pianists! 🙂

  • Give a listen to Leon Kirschner’s First Piano concerto. Henze’s 2nd Piano concerto is one of the masterpieces of the 20th Century. Richard Rodney Bennett wrote a fine one as well. Corigliano’s is worth rehearing, as is Beaser’s. Roberto Gerhard, Schoenberg, Martinu’s 4th, Serge Nigg, Tippett, Yehudi Wyner’s “Chiavi in Mano”… Of course we cannot expect that contemporary audiences will be able to identify a great new work on its own, so it is incumbent upon soloists and conductors to take up the task of championing works they believe in and repeat them often enough that audiences will be persuaded to give them more attention over other new piece. To them every new piece is the same as the next unless we, the purveyors of the music, guide them toward the best ones. This is of course how any new piece becomes a part of the “canon”…repeat, repeat, repeat until the conductor, players and the audience knows it better. Koussevitsky did this with new pieces. Some received repeat performances year after year. It was as if he was saying, “this piece is worthy of mine, my player’s and your continued attention. I love it and I want you to love it too.” There is so much apologizing for programming even the finest new music. The classical music world must stop that. The music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra does not have a mind for new music, and to the orchestra refers to the new piece on the program as “the funny piece”. I know he is trying to be humorous but that simply plays into the prevailing dismissive mindset toward new music. With attitudes like that there is little hope for the greatest pieces of the last or present century to get their due.

    • I just had three evenings with really outstanding interpretations of „The Piano Concerto“ with BSO. The quality of the orchestra is very good, and the musicians were fully motivated.
      And there will be more performances. Next in Helsinki, Munich, Lucerne.

      • These days, this is a very fortunate happening. Good luck with this – I hope to listen to this someday! Perhaps another Norman Lebrecht topic might be: New Concertos: Who Makes Them Sustain? It would be interesting to hear from composers and see which ones are actively promoting their new works to keep them off the shelf. True, we as artists, send as much material and demo recordings of the new pieces to help get them out there, but we cannot do it alone.

  • Lindberg’s 2nd concerto seems to be gaining some traction in the sense that it’s getting performed after its premiere and by more pianists than the premiere performer (Yefim Bronfman, who based on his later statements seemed to hate both it and the Salonen concerto). The work itself is a pretty disappointing mix of meaningless acrobatics, quotations from the piano literature and Ravel pastiche, though, particularly when considering that it’s written by a fairly successful pianist-composer with at least one successful concerto (for clarinet) in his oeuvre.

  • Just a few years short of the 21st century, Hugh Wood’s piano concerto made a huge impression when premiered by Joanna MacGregor at the BBC Proms. A number of successful revivals since then and a very well received recording by the original performers have not led to independent performances by others. But it would seem to have so much going for it such as a popular Nat King Cole song at its centre, jazzy/minimalist aspects in the last movement. True, the first movement has some Schoenbergian angularity and astringency but this soon warms into a Brahmsian glow. So,what’s not to like?

  • And then we have José Serebrier’s Symphonic B A C H Variations for piano and orchestra, recently premièred and recorded by no less a man than Alexandre Kantorow, this year’s Tchaikovsky Competition Winner, with the RTÉ Orchestra in Dublin under the baton of the composer. Record out in January 2020 – BIS-2423 SACD.

  • Dieter Ammann’s Piano Concerto at this year’s Proms was outstanding; certainly one of the best pieces I’ve heard for years – in any genre.

  • The concerto to have disappeared the fastest was by Johannes Borowski, written for, and premiered by Barenboim last year (and who never played it again).

  • What are they talking about? There are tons of new piano concertos. Most of the composers I know about or follow have at least one. If you don’t know them you aren’t paying attention.

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