A skilled pianist himself, Carl Vine has created a body of piano works which occupies a central place in the contemporary repertoire of many pianists through its scintillating command of sonority and space, not to mention its versatility and wit.
Vine recently completed Implacable Gifts, a Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, commissioned by the West Australian and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras with support from philanthropist Geoff Stearn. The four-movement work was premiered in Perth on 11 May 2018 by outstanding international pianists Piers Lane and Kathryn Stott, with Rory Macdonald conducting.
‘Chords surging across two pianos, backed by a fateful bass drum beat, exactly evoked the impact of his inspiration — Implacable Gifts, a surrealist vision by Australian painter James Gleeson of a cruel sea disgorging random elements on its shore… Vine described his subject matter as “the nature of creation”, and it might also be our creation, the humanity that exists essentially between our ears, while all else is nature red in tooth and claw… From the dramatic opening movement, Irresistible Urges, through the narrative themed and lyrically meditative middle passages, Folk Story and Fairytale, soloists and baton formed a tight triad to channel a complex work in its world premiere… In the finale, Inevitable Conclusion, as strings raced to catch pianos and percussion, the lyricism seemed to echo Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, which shares both inspiration in paint and origin as a piece for piano… Vine’s notes described soloists as heroes, whether collaborating or competing; in this, both were winners.’
The West Australian (David Cusworth), 13 May 2018
‘Vine took his cues from surreal art and structured the ideas as musical chunks thrown up against one another. But don’t be fooled, the final product is of course carefully refined and immaculately crafted…The four-movement work opened with the two pianos at war, hurling chords at each other half a beat apart. However for most of the work the soloists were in conversation, echoing and dovetailing each other and enmeshed in the orchestral texture. The work was scored for a large orchestra and there were moments of swamping overtones from the combination of two pianos, harp, keyboard percussion and full orchestra. Generally though Vine opted for light string textures and transparent scoring, allowing for moments of emotional intimacy and clarity. The sweetness of glockenspiel and bird-like woodwind calls was one such moment in the first movement contrasted with noisy rhythmic passages. A meandering cadenza shared by the two pianos led into a pastoral second movement with a modal folk melody on flute and cascading piano arpeggios passed between Stott and Lane with immaculate delicacy. The third movement opened with rhapsodic piano runs reminiscent of the second movement of Vine’s Piano Concerto No 1. Germs of ideas coalesced to create chugging momentum but were immediately replaced by new content. The streams of consciousness approach began to feel piecemeal and ran the risk of content overload. The final movement was a rhythmically driven rollercoaster ride to a triumphant brassy finale. This is a work chock-full of colour and climax, and confirms (despite the assault of implacable musical ideas) Vine’s unerring ear for beauty. The concerto sat comfortably on the program alongside the similarly rich sound worlds of Ravel and Prokofiev.’
Limelight (Rosalind Appleby), 13 May 2018