Liebermann's Piccolo Concerto: A Rare and Expressive Work for the Flute Family
Lowell Liebermann is a prolific American composer who has written works in all major genres, including opera, symphony, chamber music, and solo piano. He is especially known for his compositions for the flute, such as his Soliloquy, Sonata, and Flute Concerto. One of his most remarkable works for the flute family is his Piccolo Concerto, Op. 50, which he composed in 1996 at the request of Jan Gippo, the piccolo player of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra.
The Piccolo Concerto is a rare addition to the slender list of concertos written for the piccolo, the smallest and highest-pitched member of the flute group. Liebermann decided to explore the lyrical and expressive qualities of the piccolo, rather than its stereotypical bright and shrill sound. He also used the lowest octave of the piccolo, which has a tender and vulnerable timbre. The concerto consists of three movements: Andante comodo, Adagio, and Presto.
The first movement opens with a haunting and mysterious melody that evokes the film music of Bernard Herrmann and James Horner. The piccolo then enters with a contrasting faster theme that shows its agility and virtuosity. The movement alternates between these two themes, creating a contrast between dark and light moods.
The second movement is based on a twelve-tone row that has tonal implications and is derived from motives from the first movement. The movement is a set of variations that showcase the expressive range of the piccolo. The music is gentle and romantic, with unexpected harmonic shifts that create a sense of longing and nostalgia.
The third movement is a brisk and brilliant finale that brings out the playful and cheerful side of the piccolo. The movement features quotations from Mozart's 40th Symphony, Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, and Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever. Liebermann explains that these quotations are a homage to Dmitri Shostakovich, who used similar quotations in his Second Violin Concerto, and also a joke for the piccolo players, who never get to play these pieces that have no piccolo parts.
The Piccolo Concerto is scored for a full orchestra of winds in pairs (no trombones or tubas), strings, timpani, percussion, piano, and harp. It was premiered by Jan Gippo at the National Flute Association convention in New York on August 18, 1996, with Glen Cortese conducting the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. The concerto has since been recorded and performed by several piccolo players around the world, such as Nicola Mazzanti, Jean-Louis Beaumadier, Sarah Jackson, and Matthias Ziegler.
Liebermann's Piccolo Concerto is a unique and captivating work that demonstrates the expressive potential of the piccolo as a solo instrument. It is a challenging but rewarding piece for both the piccolo player and the listener, who can discover a new dimension of this often overlooked member of the flute family. 061ffe29dd