Colors From a Changing Sky (1994)


This work was commissioned by the 1994 San Antonio International Keyboard Competition as a competition piece for the finalists.  Inspired by the vivid images of a Texas sky, I began this piece under the working title Etude gris (Grey Etude).  I was initially interested in how black and white keys could interlock to generate passages which would sound difficult but were very pianistic and fairly easy to learn.  I was also interested in designing a competition piece that would challenge each pianist with different aspects of playing.  Hence, the opening section presents questions about phrasing and quick dynamic contrasts, the central section demands sheer athletic strength, and the closing passage calls for a sensitivity to both color and line.  In order to tie the sections together, a melodic "spine" runs entirely through the piece.  Initially present in two and three note cells, it expands in the central section to five notes and eventually blooms against very slow harmonic movement in the ending section.  Seemingly disparate elements soon coalesce into an overwhelming force and then slowly dissipate, a drama often played out in sudden changes of weather.