Program Note by the Composer
Concerto for Piano and String Orchestra
Many of my works straddle the worlds of American Jazz and European Concert music. While that in itself is not very unusual - George Gershwin, William Grant Still and others were doing it regularly over a hundred years ago - finding performers who have the capability of negotiating both the technical (play the notes) and the musical (grasp the interpretive) challenges certainly is.
In 2014 I was producing a DVD of three of my compositions performed by double bass virtuoso Catalin Rotaru . . . Plays Music for Double Bass and Piano by Frank Proto (Red Mark DV 200313). We needed a pianist capable of playing the piano parts with the flare and temperament that the music needed, and had very little rehearsal time to put it all together. Catalin suggested Marina Pacowski, assuring me that I'd be happy. Of course never having worked with her I had my doubts. But Catalin was the soloist and I decided to trust his judgment. Well, I wasn't just happy, I was ecstatic! Here was an artist that played everything exactly the way I had always dreamed of hearing it, and without me having to say a word to her about phrasing, dynamics or any of the other little annoyances that usually occur between composer and performer when they are unfamiliar with each other. It was as if we'd worked together for years. Nothing needed saying. Everything was ideal from the git-go!
The DVD was a resounding artistic success in every possible way, and after we had finished Marina asked if I might write a little solo piece just for her. I told her I'd be happy to try to produce something that would be interesting. However, when I finally got around to working, I just couldn't come up with a solo piece that I was happy with. So, without telling her what I had in mind, I thought I'd just switch gears and try the concerto route. It became a more complicated project, but ultimately got me into a good working groove. To my delight she was happy with my surprise and played the first performance on July 15, 2018 at the Meadowlark Festival in Lincoln Nebraska.
The music is in a traditional three-movement form and quite easy to follow.
1: Slow introduction and cadenza, followed by a fast (Allegro) section, a contrasting middle section - Tempo di Tango, and a recapitulation of the first Allegro.
2: Slow and lyrical, with a similar introduction and cadenza as in movement one.
3: Fast (Molto Allegro), with some out of tempo contrasting material in the middle, followed by a recap. of the opening material, but with a driving Latin or Cuban or ???-type feel to bring things to a close.