From the recording Finale
Concerto #2 in C minor for Piano and Orchestra
After the first rehearsal of James Domine’s Piano Concerto #2 in C minor, one of the musicians in the orchestra was heard to remark that “the concerto sounds like a cross between Tchaikovsky and the Blues Brothers.” This comment is not quite an accurate observation insofar as it is an incomplete assessment of the scope of the piece.
In the post-modern era music remains as a simple expression of the people who created it, in this case, a composer steeped in the European symphonic tradition tempered by all sorts of contemporary influences, as we all are, deluged by a cacophonic confluence of myriad streams of musical style. The various influences contained within the concerto are unimportant in and of themselves but find their true meaning within the context of the piece. The goal is to give expression to a variety of moods in a way that can be best accomplished in the piano concerto form.
The first movement, Allegro maestoso, is set in a traditional sonata form, opening with a dramatic fanfare setting the stage for what feels like a romantic tragedy. This first theme wends its way through a sequence of keys, leading into a bittersweet episode of reflection. This mood is interrupted abruptly by a jagged second theme of a rock music character providing a jarring contrast like the sudden changing of channels in the middle of a program. This section concludes with a statement in the relative major key that seems to signal the momentary triumph of artificial joy over the void of despair. In the development, the conflict between emotions expressed in the piano solo part and the interjections of the orchestra depicts the cacophonic disconnection inherent in the age of electronic media. The piano perseveres like an ancient camel across the vacant desert in a quest for the resolution of unspoken desires. In the recapitulation, the unavoidable consequences of this search are brought to bear.
The second movement, entitled Nocturne, is a melancholic expedition into an almost forgotten memory with overtones of hope as well as resignation and deep regret. It has been described as the feeling one has on a cold winters’ day when the sun almost shines for a brief moment, then is gone forever into the frozen darkness of night, never to return.
The Finale is a bright scherzo set in stark contrast to the second movement in that it is very light and delicate of feeling. The impression it gives is one of a warm day outdoors with gentle breezes playing softly across open fields. The rhythmic energy is at once animated and untamed, giving way finally to unrestrained exuberance, bringing the concerto to a close in a blaze of fiery brilliance.
This archival recording features Joanna Ezrin, pianist with James Domine conducting the San Fernando Valley Symphony Orchestra.