"Dies Irae" Redux Program Notes

Like many of the other works for two pianos, "Dies Irae" Redux represents a recompositon and rethinking of ideas and structural frameworks which originated in other pieces, either by me or other composers. Of the five other pieces for two pianos, only one (Period Piece) does not share material with another piece, and that piece has some famous musical quotations in it. Waltzes, Old and New takes dances from many of my other works, and Drowsey Maggie uses the Finale of the trio by that name. Serge P is a recomposition of Prokofiev's Sonata for Two Violins with solo interpolations, and CPE mixes fragments of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach's "Wurttemberg" Sonatas.

Working in this medium has allowed me to experiment in the most eclectic combinations because of the borrowed materials. Most of the material of this piece exists in Concerto "Dies Irae" for Piano Trio and Wind Ensemble from 1982. This intensely fragmented and colorful work pits the chamber group against the winds and the percussion. In its original form, timbral contrast is paramount, and developments of pitch materials are often partially hidden. In the two-piano work, which is not merely a transcription, the thematic associations are more concrete and perceiving the whole piece is easier for the first-time listener. Also, the lopsided conflict of solo vs. ripieno has been replaced by a delicate balance between the two keyboard players.

In all, "Dies Irae" Redux is more compact, more contrapuntal, and more homogeneous in the weight of textures, capitalizing on the biggest strength of two pianos as an ensemble: the continuous seamlessness over the whole range of the instrument. A good example could be found in the construction of the two parts themselves. Although much of the piano music of the trio concerto is present, that persona is divided between Piano I and II in the latter piece. The two cadenzas from the concerto are partially replaced with passages that highlight Piano I in Movement I and Piano II in Movement II. The concerto is through composed, while this piece is in two large sections, the second being almost twice as long as the first.

The composition of this work has had a particular enjoyment for me, because it provides an opportunity to marry my most recent interests with old techniques. Also, it is always fun to take material in new directions.

P.R. Spring, 2006.