[NUNOTE 7] In 5 movements, Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (2017) is an orchestral tour-de-force wherein the Piano and Orchestra are in constant dialogue. Kaloian takes the Concerto form truly into the 21st century while retaining his artistic inheritance as a direct descendant of Liszt via Busoni and Johansen.
Subtitled “In memoriam Lorraine and Gunnar Johansen”, the “Azalean” Concerto conjures up memories of my many visits with Danish composer-pianist Gunnar Johansen and his wife Lorraine on their land adjoining the JoLey Ranch in Anchor Bay, California where I lived from 1978-1980 and would return to visit several times thereafter. Johansen named his land “Azalean” in reference to the many Azaleas found on the property, which was up the hill from the ocean views I had at JoLey. Azalean was a very special place, not only for the Johansens being there as their summer home away from The University of Madison, Wisconsin (where Johansen was Artist in Residence, the first such named appointment in America)—to his small shack with Bechstein conservatory grand and upright Steinway dominating the little living room—but also for it being the historic gathering place where Johansen had hosted stays from composers Harry Partch and Ben Johnston as well as great minds from other disciplines such as physicist Larry Marshall. It was in the smithy at Azalean that Partch would live, moving in his hand-made instruments, expanding the old wooden structure and where he would build his Bass Marimba. Larry Marshall financed the first recordings of Partch which he would release as 78’s—(I have my own copy of the master tape) in which we hear Partch speaking his introduction and his own singing of his music.
In the “Azalean” Concerto we can hear the wind rising up the hill from the Pacific Ocean below, winding between the Redwood and Cypress tress, as well as the rush of Roseman Creek and the blooming of the many flowers and foliage mixed in this special “Banana Belt” micro-climate, which was always sunny in the summer and warmer than down on the coast below, though mixed in with the cool air from the Pacific. My last visit to Azalean to see the Johansens was in 1985 while on leave from the Marines. Johansen had been working on his own Piano Concerto, with the manuscript sitting in the music stand of the Bechstein and having over as another guest pianist Capt. Dale Cutler from Petaluma to read the orchestra piano-score on the Steinway upright (Johansen would refer to Dale Cutler as “the greatest living sight-reader.”) Gunnar Johansen died in 1991 at the age of 85 in Blue Mounds, Wisconsin. It would seem, my “Azalean” Concerto is a resurrection of the creative forces I inherited from those early days, which I keep bottled up and have carried around with me all these years since— this energy I still use to fuel my music and in everything else.
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Released 24 March, 2017