Heading: for ten pianos
1. Key Biscayne, dawn
2. Coral Gables, early morning
3. Little Haiti, mid morning
4. Opa-Locka, late morning
5. Freedom Tower, noon
6. Star Island, early afternoon
7. Stiltsville, mid afternoon
8. Little Havana, late afternoon
9. Coconut Grove, early evening
10. Mojitos and Stilettos, night
11. South Beach, midnight
12. Everglades, under the stars
Miami Piano Circle
Shepard and Ruth K. Broad Center for the Performing Arts
April 27, 2014
10 grand pianos
Recording: miami grands
[Miami Grands] is gentle, tuneful, joyous, playful, and glowing. You could add clangorous, jangling, and especially, like the name of the record label, ecstatic.
There aren’t that many pieces in our time that consistently boast my list of descriptors. ...these are truly masterly pieces...an inspired pleasure. —Allen Gimbel, American Record Guide
Michael Torke's music has always been cleverly constructed; not self-consciously ponderous at all, sometimes based on outrageous concepts but always pretty entertaining. Such is the case with Miami Grands.—Daniel Coombs, Audiophile Audition
Fans of Torke’s brand of minimal-ish, popular-idiom-ish, rhythmically insistent style will find much to enjoy here...the overall effect is appealing, with a high entertainment quotient, brash and brightly lit, colorful and relentlessly active, like the city it portrays.—Records International
What inspired me to write this piece, before any thoughts of Miami entered my head, was Mia Vassilev, founder and director of Miami Piano Circle, who I met when she was the rehearsal pianist for a one-act opera of mine (produced at the Frost School of Music-University of Miami), and later the rehearsal pianist for a full length opera workshop of mine (at the Metropolitan Opera in New York). It was her comment on what she heard in my music that motivated me. She hears a fusion of a very public style in my music, on the one hand; and a rigorous theoretical side to its construction, on the other. So when she invited me to write for ten grand pianos, and encouraged me to continue that approach, I said yes immediately.
Each of the twelve movements tries to reflect not only different locations in Miami, but different times of day in those locations. The journey spans a single day, from dawn to after midnight. I take each theme, and pit it against a twice-as-long version (augmentation), correcting the notes where the counterpoint demands that I do so. Some movements have even a half-as-long version (diminution) paired against the original. Although the explicit use of complete augmentations and diminutions isn’t found very much in music, the note-to-note corrections are rooted in 18th century counterpoint, practices in use from the Baroque through the Classical periods. So any radicalism thought to be in the music is actually based in a quite severe traditional handling of materials. The aim, however, is emotional, not a studied, intellectual result some might expect from this description.