S/M Ballade is a 12-minute, two-part, pianistic terror.
The first and shorter part is a prelude that nevertheless has a figuration, consitency and difficulty (once it gets going) of an etude.
The second section - a grand fugue in F-minor - follows. A repeated-note subject in three-quarter time is pursued by a counter-subject in 4/4 time. Throughout the piece, the juxtaposition and combination of these two opposing rhythms remain a contrapuntal constant. A contrasting, more lyrical, theme appears in A-flat major is spun out, leading to an elaborate development of the fugue subject in remote keys. The interplay of warring rhythms, begun earlier, climaxes with the augmentation of the main theme against diminution of its accompanying motives. In the midst of this frenetic activity, the second theme reappears - now embellished with glistening sixteenth notes. At length, all activity slows, then stops. The coda begins like an octave etude and comes to an ecstatic peak. There is a brief reminiscence of the work's opening, and then a final virtuosic descent from the top of the keyboard to the bottom. A crashing cacophony of F-minor vs F-major ends the pice, with F-major ultimately victorious.
In recent years, I have enjoyed celebrating aspects of gay life in my music, mostly by making musical settings of gay poetry that I love. S/M Ballade has no words, but its rigor, its rugged insistence and its almost painful pianistic difficulties bring to mind the intensity of the S/M experience. As well, the title alludes to my friends Marc Peloquin ("M") and his life partner, Seth Slade ("S"). Marc commissioned - and inspired - the piece, which I dedicate to him with deep affection and admiration.
David Del Tredici has a champion in pianist Marc Peloquin who will premiere a major new work for solo piano-Many Hands-on September 7, 2017 at 8:00 p.m. at the Leonard Nimoy Thalia. Many Hands is a virtuoso exploration of the outer reaches of piano technique. The work includes every possibility of hand simultaneities--that is to say music for left hand alone, right hand alone (very rare!), as well as the conventional two hands together (however the composer does not ask the pianist to play with his nose--a "trick" attributed to the young J.S. Bach) . The program also includes Peloquin-Del Tredici favorites: the pianistic terror S/M Ballade (commissioned by Peloquin) and the recent autobiographical work in four movements entitled, Late in the Game.
Celebrating more than a decade of collaboration, Del Tredici credits Peloquin with seducing him to compose again for his first love--the piano. Del Tredici has said about Marc "his personal radiance, superior technique and musical imagination drew me in. I am forever in his debt”.
A New York Times critic has said "Marc Peloquin’s energetic approach yielded a performance that was refreshing and alive. Individual lines rang out with remarkable definition and clarity.” "An innovative ivory tickler" declared Time Out, Marc Peloquin has appeared in a wide range of venues such as The Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, Town Hall, Bargemusic, the Kennedy Center, The Chicago Cultural Center, The Gardner Museum and the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City. He has recorded for the Albany, C.R.I. and Naxos labels and is the founder and curator of the KeyedUp Music Project concert series in New York City which is celebrating its eighth season.