Isabel Mundry (1963)

Panorama ciego (2001)

concerto pour piano

  • Informations générales
    • Date de composition : 2001
    • Durée : 15 mn
    • Éditeur : Breitkopf & Härtel
Effectif détaillé
  • soliste : 1 piano
  • 2 flûte (aussi 1 flûte piccolo), 2 hautbois, 2 clarinette (aussi 1 clarinette basse), 2 basson, 2 cor, 2 trompette, 2 timbales, 2 violon, 2 violon II, 2 alto, 2 violoncelle, 2 contrebasse

Information sur la création

  • 3 June 2001, Philharmnie de Berlin

Note de programme
Isabel Mundry discovered the idea for her new piano concerto - as well as its title - reading Ferderico García Lorca’s Poet in New York. Written during the year Lorca taught at Columbia University (1929-30), the poems express his sense of the spiritual emptiness and anonymity of the modern city. Mundry was drawn not to Lorca’s subject matter, but to his structural ideas, particularly the juxtaposition of a ritualistic repetition of words or phrases with strongly expressive passages.

The structural innovations of these poems, which marked a turning point in Lorca’s career, suggested strong parallels with musical composition to Mundry. In fact, the oneness of literature and music was a long-held ideal of Lorca’s. Early in his career, after he gave up studying the piano, he sometimes picked musical names, such as the waltz or nocturne, for titles of his poems; by the time of Poet in New York, music played a formal role in his writing. He even referred to the book as "symphonic, like the noise and complexity” of the city itself. Mundry’s concerto is a drama between repeated ideas and isolated musical moments analogous to Lorca’s "poetic events”.The work’s underlying rhythm, like that of Lorca’s late poems, is a pattern of repetition and change, of stasis versus unrest, of process and interruption. One of Lorca’s titles gave Mundry the striking paradoxical image of a Panorama ciego ("blind panorama”) that reflects the contradictory elements at the heart of her own concerto.

Mundry’s Panorama ciego is the third and last in a series of works for piano and small Mozartean orchestra composed for Daniel Barenboim to conduct from the keyboard. In a sense, these new pieces are the logical outgrowth of Barenboim’s goal, early in his career, to conduct Mozart’s concertos from the piano; today, with those works at the heart of his repertory, he is carrying this tradition into the 21st century.

Mundry arranged her small orchestra in two symmetrical groups, with one side of the stage mirroring the other. The setup is dramatized by the composition itself, which often suggests a dialogue between left and right, and also captures the sense of expanse and motion of a panorama, with music moving back and forth across the stage, as if along a vast horizon.

- 2 - Because she was composing a concerto for a pianist who conducts as he plays, Mundry wrote something akin to chamber music, with a piano part that is carefully integrated into the orchestra, and a solo role that isn’t predominantly virtuosic in nature. In her version of a Mozart orchestra (pairs of winds, horns, and trumpets, with timpani and just eight strings), each player is a soloist - "exciting and dangerous at the same time” as she puts it. Mundry is accustomed to writing for the modern orchestra, with its vast department store of available colors and percussion effects. The scale of Panorama ciego is more restricted, the inner drama intimate and restrained - in contrast with the music by Wagner that follows it on this program. (As Mundry says, her concerto, with its intricate detail and crystalline textures, is closer in spirit to Webern’s music than Wagner’s.)

Mundry also wrote with Barenboim’s deeply involved performing style in mind. "He is someone who, whether he is conducting or playing, connects to every moment in the piece,” she says. (The two earlier works in this series took cues from the performer as well: Wolfgang Rihm’s Sotto voce was inspired by the pianist’s pianissimo playing, and Augusta Read Thomas’ Aurora was written with his "sense of whole sound” in mind.) Mundry felt liberated by composing for someone who is very close to older music - someone who knows how to work with sonority and tempo in Mozart or Wagner, and who understands the larger issues of interpretation - rather than for a specialist in the abstract sounds of contemporary music.
Each of the four movements of Panorama ciego is concerned with the dialogue between passages of ritual-like repetition and isolated moments that disrupt the music’s progress. The argument is most pronounced in the faster, more dramatic movements, but even the serene third movement, a slow-motion nocturne, addresses the same issues. The concerto also explores the relationship between continuity and unpredictability, which, as Mundry points out, are intimately related, because "it is the nature of a lived instant not to know where it leads.”

Mundry’s style reflects her interest in music as varied as the 15th-century polyphony of Guillaume Dufay and the freely scripted scores of John Cage, with their open concept of time. She was trained in composition and electronic music (as well as musicology, art history, and philosophy) in Berlin and in Frankfurt. She also worked at IRCAM in Paris. Since 1996 she has taught composition in Frankfurt. Her works have been inspired and influenced by an unusual variety of sources - the art of the Japanese garden, Thomas Wrede’s photographs of the nose dives of birds, the slowly changing patterns in woven blankets from central Africa, and the sound of the Japanese mouth organ. An early encounter with Debussy’s Jeux, with its continuously unfolding web of motives, was crucial to her understanding of musical development. Many of her scores reveal a passion for counterpoint, as well as a more recent interest in the spatial aspects of music. With each work, Mundry likes to explore new worlds, and try new things. In a larger sense, the central dialectic of Panorama ciego represents Mundry’s own ongoing challenge to balance repeating herself with looking forward. She believes it’s important to always "distrust” one’s work, in a creative sense. "I hope in that way to remain myself, and, at the same time, to keep moving.”

Phillip Huscher, Program notes for the Carnegie Hall Concert, October 17, 2001