July 4, 2017
I am painstakingly piecing together piano reductions of my orchestra scores for “A Family Portrait.” My goal is to have all of this done by August 1st. Although the piano reductions are not intended for performance, they give crucial harmonic and textural information to the singers as they rehearse and prepare for their first orchestra rehearsal. Piano reductions are weird because it’s as much a process of deciding what to leave out, as what to put in. Once you decide what to include, you then have to be sure it is playable. It’s a tricky, time-consuming process. I also struggle with motivation because I know the piano reduction will never be performed for an audience.
Even though I am a pretty decent pianist and have played for about 50 years, I still feel intimidated when I write for piano. I’ve played a lot of cumbersome things and thought, “obviously this composer didn’t know much about piano.” I do not want to be that composer. I often write piano parts that are just a bit beyond my playing level, but even working through the music under tempo, I can find and fix most of the awkward passages. Still, for me, writing piano parts requires more concentration and discernment than writing for any other instrument.
It is extremely helpful for all composers to have trusted colleagues who will play through their works and give honest, constructive feedback. I have two such pianists in my life right now, and I am so grateful for them. Thanks Pam and Alan for your suggestions, affirmation, and all around good humor. Brace yourselves. I’m going to have more music for you to sight-read very soon.
Well, I’d better get back to work. These reductions are not going to write themselves.