Written between 2009 and 2012, then revised in 2015, these four disparate piano pieces make up Late in the Game-- the title being a reference to the composer's great age. Curiously, once composed, the traditional silent spaces between pieces began to erode and fill with notes. Ultimately, Farewell, R.W. and Gloss (1 and 2) are connected--with an ironic, mood-changing quote from Beethoven's Ode to Joy. Gloss and Bittersweet (2 and 3) are also linked. Monk, the final piece is the only stand alone. The effect of all these elisions is to fuse the four movements together allowing the ear to hear a single arc.
A word about each:
Farewell, R.W. is my solo piano arrangement of the third movement of Facts of Life, a four movement work for solo guitar commissioned and premiered by David Leisner in 2010. I quote from my program note written for the premiere: "Movement 3, Farewell, R.W. is the slow movement and 'soul' of the work. Tranquil even ecstatic, it was inspired one afternoon by painful feelings surrounding a recent relationship break up."
Gloss. One weekend I invited my friend Drew Paralic to come visit. He arrived with a piano piece he had just composed and promptly played it. It haunted me. The next morning I awoke with a weird feeling: I wanted to "do something" to that piece. After Drew left, I began to rewrite the piece in my own image-- extending phrases, re-harmonizing chords, dramatizing structure. I was terrified to show it to Drew thinking he would be offended with all my tamperings. But he was pleased, even flattered- said it was like two views of the same source. Gloss moves at a moderate tempo and has a definite jazzy quality-- in line with what is Drew's own musical speciality.
Bittersweet (In memoriam John Dare) John Dare was my first love. We travelled for three days by train from California to New York City, living on 52 tuna fish sandwiches John had made. But it was love really that sustained us- at age 22 you can do that. Not bittersweet then but certainly now-- 50 years later-- the piece seesaws with a steady almost Bachian tread between chromatic progressions and spikily Baroque cadences. Only towards the end does an unalloyed Romanticism force its way forward melting away all rhythmic rigidity.
Monk (In memoriam Suzanne Nahalka) I told Suzanne some months before she died (of pancreatic cancer in 2011) that I would write her a memorial piece and that it would contain the musical letters of her name. Thus Monk. Her name yields the letters/notes AEAAA and so with these notes as a steady ever-pulsating accompaniment figure my piece begins. The name Monk refers not to the famous jazz pianist but to the lead character in a 10 year old TV detective series that Suzanne and I watched (in reruns) almost daily via telephone. She loved the quirky, neurotic, genius-detective Monk and he became, in those last months, our bond. Monk (the piano piece) is not mournful but - by turns Romantic, passionate, serene-- a reflection of Suzanne's own lively personality.
Farewell R.W. Premiere:
Tenri Cultural Center
Marc Peloquin, piano