Commissioned by Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and Orquestra Sinfonica do Estado de S. Paulo

The world premiere took place on June 15th, 2018 at The Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, performed by Roger Muraro and The Gulbenkian Orchestra, conducted by Benjamin Schwartz.

  • pf + 3[3pic].3[III:ca].2+bcl.2+cbn/4.3[2pictpt].2+btbn.1/timp.3perc/hp/str
  • Piano
  • 23 min

Programme Note

The image of a pianist sitting in front of the orchestral musicians is a strange image: he shares the same space as that extraordinary human blob, but is separated by an inert black spot, a physical and symbolic barrier. Not being strictly in the same place, he dominates the space - and is threatened by it.

 Something identical happens with his instrument: it has a relationship with the orchestra, but there is no real intimacy - it is a polite relationship. But above all it is a power relationship: because of its volume, scope, agility and dynamic response, the piano is also the closest instrument to the orchestra. If the orchestra is a splendid, kaleidoscopic music box, the piano is surely the most dazzling of sound machines.

The word 'machine' is important: in the vastness of things a piano can be, the precision and clarity of a machine is perhaps the most appropriate metaphor for my instrument - a mechanism that accommodates worlds as diverse as Baroque ornamentation or African bell rituals - the materials that ultimately define the character of the three movements (rough and extroverted; interior and crepuscular; processional and undulating), each of them always seeking  a different balance between piano and orchestra: an unstable dramatic relationship between almost equals.



Step Right Up: I. Joyful, Celebratory
Step Right Up: II. Nostalgic, Somewhat Desperate
Step Right Up: III. Triumphant
Vasco Mendonça talks about "Step Right Up" and working with Kaija Saariaho


Preview the score