What are you looking for in pieces of new piano music? David Korevaar

What are you looking for in pieces of new piano music? David Korevaar



David Korevaar
Photo courtesy Jecklin Associates

When I look at new music, I look for the same traits that I seek in not new music. For example, Brahms impresses because he balances intellect, emotion, and beauty so well. In new music, I want music that sounds well on the piano—music that is conceived for the instrument, written by someone who has thought about and understood the timbral needs of piano writing. I want music that stimulates my curiosity: there has to be a strongly musical idea behind the notes—a sense of backbone. And, I want music that projects an emotional and intellectual world from its first note. I have performed a wide variety of styles of new music, from the often triadic works of Lowell Liebermann, to the piece on my music rack today, a new “Lunar Rhapsody” by a doctoral candidate at the University of Colorado, Mike Barnett—a work based on originally-conceived highly chromatic symmetrical scale collections that (I think) are predicated on a denial of the principle of octave equivalence. No matter that the two languages just described seem very different on the surface, the music in both cases demonstrates a concern for how pitches combine both vertically and horizontally (a compositional ear), and in both cases is designed so that listeners will receive a strong impression from a first hearing.

As a performer, of course, I have a responsibility to open my mind and let a new score grow on me (if I’m not impressed by it right away). And, I have a responsibility to do my part to make the piece work: the performer’s contribution is a real part of the artistic creation (and, truthfully, I don’t think I’d be really thrilled to work with any composer who didn’t understand that basic concept—speaking as an occasional composer myself).