Why compose a piano concerto when you can write a work for three pianos.
And throw in a little harp — times three, of course — and percussion, again in tres.
That was what likely went through the mind of 20th century French composer Pierre Boulez when he composed “Sur Incises,” a 45-minute work composed for three pianos, three harps and three percussionists.
It is a piece that is rarely done.
“It’s the kind of piece that is very challenging to do unless you are in an academic institution or some kind of large budget ensemble,” said Michelle Gott, who runs the harp program at the University of Arizona’s Fred Fox School of Music. “You need three painos, three harps, percussionists. You need the space to rehearse and good quality instruments.”
Gott has all that and a pretty exceptional pool of talent to draw from, which could explain why she championed performing the piece at the UA.
A cast of faculty musicians and graduate students will perform the Boulez on Sunday, Feb. 15, with UA composition professor Daniel Asia conducting.
Asia said this is one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
“It’s kind of a big deal. You are going to hear one big huge sound with three pianos and all those other instruments,” Asia said. “Consider it a heavy metal piece for classical music.”
Gott, who joined the UA faculty in 2018, had an opportunity a few years before Boulez’s death in 2016 to work with the composer.
“I got to play his music with him conducting,” said Gott, who has long wanted to perform the “Sur Incises” but never had the right personnel to pull it off.
She said the audience will feel “the power of three pianos and the percussion‚ field drum, bell chime, vibraphone. I think Pierre Boulez makes full effect of the sound spectrum.”
“Sometimes it’s like a barrage of sounds and then there are other moments when it is extremely lyrical,” she said.
Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at email@example.com or 573-4642. On Twitter @Starburch
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