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Three Psalms

for solo piano and percussion ensemble

Year:  2015

Year:  2015

Composer:   John Psathas

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John Psathas: Three Psalms ...

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Originally written for solo piano and orchestra, this work was commissioned by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra at the instigation of Michael Houstoun (to whom it is dedicated). Michael’s playing inspired me throughout its composition, and his enthusiasm for the work as it grew boosted the confidence that can be sensed in the music.

This version for piano and Percussion Ensemble was arranged and orchestrated by Omar Carmenates.

The opening of Aria introduces a simple kind of melodic motion which evolves throughout the concerto. It is this simple idea which ‘tells the story’ of the concerto. In the first movement there is a tendency for the melody to fall by step; in the second movement it vacillates, is often uncertain and sometimes even becomes lost. By the third movement, all of the motion is upward by step, eventually ecstatically so.

Inferno was inspired by the haunting and deeply disturbing images in in James Nachtwey’s photographic elegy, Inferno. Nachtwey travels to the world’s most troubled places, looks at the grimmest sights to be seen there and photgraphs them in such a way as to thrust them into the view of the world. It seems impossible to go through Nachtwey’s book in one sitting – to do so gives the feeling that one’s own soul is irretrievably dissipating. Musically, energy is constantly atrophying in this movement, yielding to despair. It requires the positive energy of the entire final movement to pull one out of the pit.

As the finale to the work, Sergei: Book 3, Chapter 1, evolves, it becomes a celebration of one of the most ebullient passages in piano concerto literature; the initial allegro passage in the first movement of Prokofiev’s third concerto. This material has inspired me for the entire course of my musical life to date, and I have always wished that it lasted longer and went further. As I composed the final movement of my concerto, there developed an irresistable gravity which drew together the energy in Prokofiev’s concerto and that in my own.

Performance materials are available here.

Contents note

Arranged and orchestrated by Omar Carmenates