The idea to tackle a second piano concerto came from my friends, Geoff and Vicki Ainsworth, who turned out to be the principal commissioners of the work. The Sydney Symphony Orchestra generously offered a vehicle for the first performances, and agreed that Piers Lane would be the perfect soloist.
The notion of composing music tailored to a specific performer implies that they have strengths to be celebrated and, conversely, weaknesses to be ameliorated. It is my distinct impression that Piers Lane is incredibly good at everything on the keyboard, so writing music for him brings a liberating sense of having unfettered reign over the instrument.
Although this work has no explicit narrative or extra-musical provenance, I have named its three movements to suggest their predominant characters: Rhapsody, Nocturne, and Cloudless Blue. The first two speak for themselves, although ‘nocturnal’ here includes some surprisingly energetic activity - if only glimpsed by moonlight. The third might be called ‘Diurnal’ to counterbalance the nocturne, but this word has no historical precedent while also failing to capture the sense of brilliant Australian summer that I wanted to summon in a presto finale.
Piano Concerto No 2 was composed for Piers Lane and commissioned by the Sydney Symphony with the generous support of Geoff and Vicki Ainsworth, and by the London Philharmonic Orchestra with the support of Garf and Gill Collins.
It was first performed by Piers Lane with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hugh Wolff at the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House on 22 August, 2012.
Carl Vine, April 2012