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Mathilde Wantenaar

Rhapsody for piano and strings première by Daria van den Bercken and Britten Sinfonia

On April 14th Daria van den Bercken and Britten Sinfonia gave a stunning first performance of my new Rhapsody for piano and strings at Milton Court Concert Hall, which was warmly received by the audience. According to the Arts Desk, the piece 'aimed at "playful" and "fun". It was certainly both of those. Its episodic form, driven from the piano, called to mind Rhapsody in Blue, but rooted in a folky modality where Gershwin used jazz. There were nods to Bach in the fugue that emerged in the latter parts – bassist Benjamin Russell showing fleet fingers – and van den Bercken’s playing was perky and full of character.' In the following days they went on to perform the Rhapsody in Saffron Walden and Norwich.

On Wednesday April 19 the Dutch première will take place during the openingconcert 'Free the piano' of the Piano Biënnale 2023 in Nijmegen. Tickets are available via this link. There you can also hear the piece as part of the innovative 3D music exhibition 'Listen First'. Register for a free time slot here.


About Rhapsody for piano and strings

Whilst writing my Rhapsody for piano and strings I wanted to create something playful, energetic, groovy, shameless, and fun. Something that would feel a bit like listening to a children’s adventure story, although I had no actual story in mind. Years ago I wrote three musical fairy tales for solo violin and piano. I originally planned to write four, but the last one never materialised. The musical theme of the fourth fairytale, however, stayed with me all these years, waiting to be developed and I finally decided to do so. Another key inspiration is Bach. When Daria approached me to write a new composition, the starting point was Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto no. 5 (BWV 1050.2). I listened to it a lot and it certainly inspired me, but I also became captivated by his d minor concerto (BWV 1052) with its relentless pace, continuous energy, and strong rhythmical components. In the Rhapsody, I hoped to echo this drive. I made use extensively of the 12/8 bar (sometimes 6/4), which can be subdivided both in groups of four or three, allowing for groovy poly-pulses and also some playful poly-pulse polyphonic passages (try saying that very quickly!). I found a beautiful example of this technique in a fugue in d minor from Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier no. 2. But Bach was not the only source of inspiration. Because the structure of the piece resembles a journey, it allowed me to draw from different musical languages to create a variety of colours and atmospheres. In the piece, the piano often plays the role of the protagonist - varying in mood from valiant and audacious to dreamily naive or hopelessly romantic - but at other times the strings tell their own story or even take over completely.


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