Been away from posting for a few months. Hope everyone has enjoyed the holidays and is in full swing into 2006. During November, I wrote the piano part for a new piano concerto conceived by Billy Joel. I had asked Billy Joel via email if he might consider writing a piano concerto for me, and his personal assistant shared that he did not have the luxury of time to do so, though he asked if several of his classical solo piano pieces might be reworked into a virtuosic piano concerto. In utilizing the music already published as ‘Fantasies and Delusions’, the selections chosen came to my mind as a conception for a cohesive concerto in four movements of various styles and moods. The music is purely original, with Billy’s renowned gifts for melodic invention and harmonic ingenuity. As a classical pianist, I found it natural to take the music and hear the expanded transcription of it in my mind’s ears. Billy has also approved Phillip Keveren to be the orchestrator for the score who will work the orchestration around the piano part. It’s not a pops piece, though it can be positioned on any concert program as an alternative to any concerto for piano and orchestra.
Fantasy (Film Noir)
Reverie (Villa D’Este)
Nunley’s Carousel Waltz
The ‘Fantasy’ reminds me of some early piano music of the passionate and color-sensed Alexander Scriabin, the soulful Frederic Chopin, with a taste of Saint-Saens and the tender lyricism of Cesar Cui. It seems natural to employ a good deal of difficult left hand filigree to support the beautiful original melodies. ‘Fantasy’ is a very passionate work with a Romantic Russian feeling. It is a mesmerizing piece of music, and especially demanding for the pianist in its shifts of mood.
‘Sorbetto’ is a short and spirited palate cleanser that immediately brings to mind the style of Robert Schumann. In one passage, I quote from Schumann’s ‘Carnaval’ as the music dictates. It’s a light-hearted morsel situated between two larger movements.
‘Reverie’ contains tender melodies of nostalgic beauty that develop in a dream-like state furthered by a tango which Billy inserts between the passion and the dream. The piano part develops to seem nearly delirious in ecstasy and passion. I feel the spirits of Brahms and Chopin amidst the originality of Billy Joel’s creation. As in the chordal majesty in Rachmaninoff’s piano concerti, I employ a similar chordal grandeur as the music calls for. The movement concludes in an exotic dream state–a ‘reverie’.
For the finale, ‘Nunley’s Carousel’ is a pianistic showpiece that conjures the spirits of Peter Tschaikowsky, Artur Schulz-Evler and Leopold Godowsky in their own brilliant transcriptions of Strauss waltzes, and of course, Chopin in his waltzes. Billy’s carousel theme takes everyone back to the days of yesteryear when we all rode the carousel. My two sons had the chance to ride the beloved carousel at Long Island’s Nunley’s Amusement Park before it closed its doors. Re-creating this waltz for the piano concerto provided great pleasure and nostalgia for me. It’s a pianistic tour-de-force which brings the concerto to a virtuoso finish for both pianist and orchestra.
It is my personal goal to bring this concerto to cities worldwide, to share how a pop music icon can also pen beautiful classically styled material and allow a classical pianist to take it to the next level. Perhaps this can begin a trend in the 21st century to make room for new classical contemporary repertoire with universal appeal conceived by popular music celebrities–especially when their talents warrant such creation.