Battle of the Piano Titans

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This week, to gear up for the launch of our new show Hammered, which will feature all sorts of fabulous keyboard works, we are focusing on colossal piano works of the 20th and 21st centuries.

For some reason, even as the scale contemporary works has diminished (think 10 to 25-minute orchestral works instead of hour-long symphonies), composers have stuck with writing really massive cycles of works for the piano. Perhaps this is because so many composers are also keyboard players? I mean, they are guaranteed at least one complete play-through. Har har.

Seriously though, some of these things are huge! Think of Rzewski’s eight-hour The Road, or LaMonte Young’s The Well-Tuned Piano, duration six-plus hours. While we won’t get to dive into all of this (on my four-hour show), we will play some beautiful works on a slightly smaller scale, such as David Lang’s Memory Pieces and Messiaen’s Visions de l’Amen.

On a side note, I am also seriously looking forward to the upcoming release of Timo Andres’s album-length, two-piano work Shy and Mighty! Here’s a clip, to tide us over in its absence.

I am serious, though: especially in this era of shrinking forms, why do so many composers see a piano and decide to go big?