Maestro Kluge to Premiere Kluge & Kluge’s “American” Piano Concerto in 2016

The Kluges are currently working on a new commission for piano and orchestra that is to be premiered in May 2016. Maestro Kim Allen Kluge will conduct the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra with soloist Thomas Pandolfi.  There will be an additional performance at The National Gallery of Art.

Read an Interview with Kim Allen & Kathryn Kluge…

What is American about this piece?
KATHRYN: The expansive feeling. The reference to freedom and the need to constantly renew it. The feeling of the American landscape.
KIM: I grew up in a small town in Middle America. My mother was an immigrant. All of that ends up in this concerto…
What will the audience listen for that you consider an “American sound”?
KIM: Folk tune references. Kathryn is related to Stephen Foster, America’s first great tunesmith so we begin the concerto with some “Americana” and a reference to the Stephen Foster sound. There are echoes of folk-songs (although no actual quotes. All of the music in the concerto is original), banjo strumming and fiddle-playing. A free and improvisational spirit pervades the concerto. Some listeners will hear Copland, and a nod to the American songbook (Gershwin and Porter)
KATHRYN: But all of these influences are sublimated. It ends up sounding like Kluge & Kluge.
What composers are your greatest influences? Was any one composer particularly influential for this piece?
KIM: In addition to all of the American composers mentioned, this concerto grows out of the grand piano concerto tradition of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff.
Tell us a little about your collaboration as composers. How do your strengths and unique backgrounds interact to create a finished work?
KATHRYN: We are both pianists so the writing is very idiomatic and flattering to the pianist. Kim’s symphonic background was indispensable.
KIM: Kathryn is a world-class melodist. I tend to be intellectual and conceptual in my approach.
In the second movement, how does the story of an imprisoned writer come into play? What techniques and devices did you use to paint that picture?
Kathryn: Our friend Joanne Ackerman, president of the Penn Society, introduced us to an anthology of poetry and prose by imprisoned writers from around the world. We were deeply affected by The Prison Where I Live.
Kim: We felt that setting one of the poems would create an effective dramatic foil to the epic last movement which conveys the expansive open spaces and spirit of the American landscape and psyche. We use sounds that convey solitude and a yearning for freedom. Bells. Very sparse textures and single notes. Lots of silence. A quiet internal world. Surreal sounds as if lost in thought or in twilight daydreams. Haunting use of an offstage boys choir.
What was the greatest obstacle in composing this piece?
Kathryn: The big scope of the work. Conveying the breadth of what it means to be an American and the concept of Freedom. And incorporating all of that into the large musical structure of the piano concerto. Living up to our own expectations of the piece.
Kim: But we feel that these are not really obstacles— they are more like challenges. Also…composing a piece that will appeal to current and future audiences.
How was Thomas Pandolfi involved in the composition process?
Kathryn: We approached Thomas because of our great respect for him. It was a good marriage. Thomas is a true virtuoso in the great romantic piano tradition. But he is also a thoughtful contemporary artist whose goal is to reach a broad audience with music that speaks to the heart. He also has shares with us very eclectic tastes including a love for the American songbook!
Did you consider the audience and musicians who will experience the premiere in your composition? How did those relationships shape the work?
Kim: We always compose with the artist’s sound in our heads. The passionate and poetic sound of a full symphony orchestra resonated in our minds during the composition of The American Concerto for Piano & Orchestra. You can hear the soaring horns, searing trumpets, poignant winds and the passionate and sumptuous strings!
What ultimate message does this piece impart?
Kathryn: That is intensely personal. Each listener will have to answer that for themselves. For Kim and me it was a very personal exploration of the idea of freedom and the need for it to be constantly renewed.
What legacy would like to leave as composers?
Kim: We would like to write a piece that ours and future generations will love. To write for our 21 month-old daughter’s generation. We want Lily to be proud of us and to know that we were true to ourselves as artists.[/vc_column_text]


What People Are Saying About The American Concerto…

You two are most definitely on to something big. Wow!  It’s deep, and big and it’s so like both of you. There’s a sweep to this first movement…

Colleen Fay
WETA Music Critic

This excerpt is genuinely beautiful — it made me think of Aaron Copland recalling, as an old man, the childhood memory of the start of a big snowstorm.

Alexander Payne
Academy Award-winning Writer, Director, Sideways, The Descendants, Nebraska

This is a patriotic anthem.

Linda Silk, Artist

I listened to the concerto seven times.  It’s very beautiful!  I can’t wait to hear it with live orchestra.  I could also imagine the piece on a soundtrack for a movie about a great pianist.  It’s very evocative of the American landscape and ethos, capturing a positive ambition and energy. Audiences will certainly immediately grasp the wide sonic vistas and bold emotional scope.

Benjamin Loeb
Executive Director, Quad City Symphony Orchestra

I love it—but of course, I’m a sucker for tonality!

Robert Aubrey Davis
Producer, Millennium of Music, SiriusXMRadio

It is FANTASTIC and has been such a treat to listen to!  Soaring, romantic, cinematic work.  The melodic themes are beautiful, and memorable, and I love the way the vocals are used in such a painterly way. It is a spectacular piece, and ok here’s the thing — I’m still listening to it at my desk…

Antonia Fisher-Duke, Singer

You both are fantastic! It was beautiful, I was transported by the music. I did feel I was going through the valleys, rivers and mountaintops.

Alejandra Amarilla
Film Producer, Landfill Harmonic

So gorgeous! The delicacy of the piano sections really give a sense of tendrils and branching. . .Connection to nature and almost mind expanding qualities abound.
The tradition of landscape music is strong throughout.
Vaughn William’s Antarctica, Beethoven’s second movement to the Ninth, Brian Eno’s Plateau of Mirrors are in a similar feeling.
You’ve really captured a place where it’s nice to spend some time. . .

Philip H. Otto

Wow, amazing…absolutely beautiful and cinematic.  I feel like there is a stirring hope that emerges, bringing to mind seeing a winter landscape covered in snow with a young plant just breaking through the snow.  The song certainly seems to lend itself to telling a story as it evolves and progresses. I see this tree growing from young to mature and in the background, life moves on around it. Perhaps it started growing on a civil war battle field when it was young and over the next hundred years it was witness to quite a bit of change and evolution of a young country.  The third part absolutely has the feel of expanse… the little sapling that witnessed the civil war is now the centerpiece of an amazing park providing shade for gatherings of families while sleek airplanes fly high overhead.  The music certainly inspires images and stories which is absolutely fantastic and powerful.  Great work!

Michael Makara, Pre-Visualization Artist– The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch & the Wardrobe, Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides , Film Director

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