Concert by composer Michael Brown with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra
Michael Brown’s “Piano and Strings Concerto,” which the composer will perform with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra next weekend, was inspired by two masters.
It was written in Aaron Copland’s home, where Brown was staying during a residency program, and by Brown dissecting Beethoven’s concertos.
“It was inspired by what would have been Beethoven’s 250th birthday in 2020, which ruined everything for obvious reasons,” Brown said in a telephone interview from his home in New York.
“I was studying Beethoven’s structures and his concertos and how he put his materials together,” he continued. “My piece doesn’t look like Beethoven at all, but it has a similar sense of structure or architecture, in terms of three movements and how the themes appear in a similar form. Plus, Beethoven’s connection to the piano as an instrument is a big part of piano writing – Beethoven’s little tricks (like) long extended trills and a keen sense of the rhythmic backbone.
He has previously performed the piece with the Kalamazoo and Maryland symphonies.
“It kind of evolved during the extra time of the pandemic, which was great because I had more time to rewrite, edit and play with,” said Brown, who will be featured on the WSO’s Steinway, which will be on stage at Century II for the first time since February 2020.
The concert will begin with selections by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, an English Métis composer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and will end with Brahms’ “Symphony No. 2 in D major”, a piece that was intended to be be played in March 2020 but canceled one day the day before the dress rehearsal.
“It’s sentimental, because the musicians remember it as the last thing they rehearsed before they had to go their separate ways,” conductor / music director Daniel Hege said this spring.
Brown, 34, who the New York Times has called “one of the leading figures in today’s singer-songwriter renaissance,” is featured in a concert the Wichita Symphony calls “Composer at the Keys.”
He said playing his own music was fun, but also described the experience as nerve-racking.
“It’s a little intimidating because I wear a lot of hats,” he said. “I go to rehearsals and I’m like, ‘I have to remember and play my part to a level that I’m happy with. I must know everyone’s role and be on call for any questions they may have immediately.
Brown said he still views the piece as a work in progress and has taken input from the musicians and conductors he’s worked with to make changes.
“Even between performances, I keep editing the string parts or changing stuff in the piano part. I don’t feel like I’m done with this, ”he said. “I’m also trying to find my way with the play, and people need decisive answers. And often during rehearsals you don’t have a month for the workshop. You have to come in and decide and follow your intuition. It’s fun, it’s nervous and I enjoy the whole process.
He had the opportunity to do a workshop on the piece, in January 2020, and had plans for follow-ups a few months later.
“But that was the time when no one was getting together and it was unthinkable to have five people in one room,” he said. “I just had to imagine what it looked like.”
Gigs like “Composer at the Keys” are the best way to get your music out at this level of your career, Brown said.
“If I don’t defend it, who will?” ” He asked.
Brown said he composed as Beethoven is believed to have done, with a series of musical skits that ultimately tie together.
Brown said he sees himself as both a composer and a performer.
“They are all a part of me. I feel like I’m doing both all the time. When I’m stressed out and getting ready for a concert or a recital, that’s exactly what I do, ”he said. “I need both. They both shaped the musician that I am.
WICHITA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
When: 3 p.m. Sunday, November 7
Or: Century II Concert Hall, 225 W. Douglas
Tickets: $ 25- $ 65, at the Wichita Symphony box office, by phone at 267-7658 or at wichitasymphony.org