World Premiere of Yuanfan's Piano Concerto No. 3 in Moscow with New Russia State Symphony Orchestra
Yuanfan is one of 12 composer finalists selected out of more than 150 entries for the Composition Category of the inaugural Rachmaninoff International Competition for Pianists, Composers and Conductors, to be held in Moscow in June 2022.
This competition is divided into three separate categories: piano, conducting and composition, and is managed by the same organisers as the world-renowned Tchaikovsky International Competition (for piano, violin, cello, voice, and most recently wind & brass). The Rachmaninoff Competition is claimed to be equal in its prestige, indicating the strong and unique musical tradition and context of Russian culture.
With the worldwide scarcity of advanced largescale composition competitions in the world, this competition will become a unique benchmark for encouraging and inspiring international composers of all ages, with the eldest participant composer in this edition being 74 years old!
As part of the application process, which was completely anonymous and without age limit, each composer had to submit two works for consideration: a solo piano piece and a piano concerto. Yuanfan submitted his new 'Petite Partita' for solo piano, and his new 'Piano Concerto No. 3 in Five Movements' for piano and orchestra.
12 composers in total, along with their 12 solo piano works and 12 piano concertos, advanced to the finals.
Both of Yuanfan's new works will receive their world premieres at some point between 20-26 June. Yuanfan will be the pianist himself for both his works, and looks forward to premiering his concerto with the New Russia State Symphony Orchestra. The conductor is yet to be confirmed.
'Petite Partita' will be premiered in the Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatory, and the 'Piano Concerto No. 3' will be premiered in the Rachmaninov Concert Hall (Philharmonia 2).
Along with the rest of the competition, both works will be professionally recorded and live-streamed for free online on the competition's official website in Full HD, as well as VKontakte.
The Rachmaninoff competition attracted more than 500 entries from 33 countries, including the UK, the USA, China, Russia, Ukraine, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria, Japan, Korea, Australia and Canada.
For more information, please visit the competition's official website: https://rachmaninoffcompetition.com/en/
Below is the programme note of Yuanfan's Piano Concerto No. 3:
This concerto was started in May 2020 as a project for the lockdown period during the pandemic and was completed in May 2021. I had already written two officially numbered piano concertos in my life; the first one was written when I was 17, and the second when I was 22, the latter of which was written in a specific harmonic language to fulfil a requested criterion that it had to be particularly audience friendly.
But the third was conceived from a fit of inspiration, where I could be free to compose how I wanted. With relation to styles and features, the lockdown period allowed me to discover and get inspired by a great variety of music I had never listened to, nor even necessarily liked before; something that I may not necessarily have had the time or focus to do if there wasn’t a pandemic, or perhaps it has come with a slight maturation of age and experience. This kind of listening suddenly opened up so many doors for me and gave me so many avenues of possibilities to explore, as I had over the past few years started to wonder how I was going to develop my ‘style’ in a way I wanted. Simultaneously, I intended to write a piano concerto for the 21st century – with the aim of retaining the virtuoso concerto elements from the romantic era but blending them with more contemporary usages of harmony and structure, and hopefully through writing two previous concertos, I had built up some experience for this. I also explored taking consonant chords/harmonies/tonalities but used, combined and built upon them in an unusual personal way, which hopefully gives the concerto a sense of accessibility and stability, as I was not so interested in writing something fully atonal or experimental.
This concerto spans five contrasting movements, in a slow, fast, fast, fast, slow structure. I felt five movements would provide ample opportunity to showcase the contrasts of mood and temperament. Each movement feels like a different piece, and yet hopefully all five movements tie up the concerto together cohesively, and not just because each movement starts on the note ‘G’! Each movement’s melodic and harmonic material is unique to themselves, except the first and final movements which share the same melodic material.
The first movement serves mainly as a scene-setter and introduces the audience to the concerto in a gradual way, starting from somewhere distant and building to a kind of climax, before fading again. The second movement is somewhat like a disfigured scherzo + trio, although it feels much more substantial than that. The mood is often unsettling, intimidating, biting and forboding, contrasting the trio section, which starts off calmer before becoming more and more recitative-like, before the mood of the scherzo returns, even more fiery, tempestuous and relentless than the first time round. The third movement starts quite rhapsodically, before suddenly moving into a fanfare-like section doubled on piano and horns; all of which surrounds a dream-like meditative section, built upon the piano’s expressive and melodic use of repeated notes. The fourth movement is a moto perpetuo; a relentless non-stop toccata from start to finish, initially starting with the wind before getting interrupted and taken over by the piano which continues the rollercoaster ride determinedly onwards, eventually arriving at a huge climax near the end, before fading cheekily. The fifth and final movement is almost like a chorale and feels like a culmination of the eventualities from previous movements – it is grand, luminous in stature, and moves slowly, solemnly with nobility and pride. This movement is closest out of all to feeling like a ‘soundscape’ and takes its time to build to these gigantic all-encompassing climaxes, so much so that as the movement progresses, the piano is eventually engulfed and consumed by the orchestra (who may be ‘jealous’ that the piano has been at the centre of the piece for so long). It is ironic that by the very end, the piano gets softer whilst the orchestra gets louder, as if it is to say that the piano has ‘lost’ and the orchestra has ‘won’.
Here is the programme note to 'Petite Partita':
‘Petite Partita’ is a tribute to the Partitas of Baroque composers. Each movement in the set is a contemporary twist on a form or structure from the Renaissance or Baroque eras, and, to further reference the stylistic constraints of those eras, each piece has a transparency and directness in texture.
All the pieces are somewhat linked thematically, in terms of musical material. For instance, the entire left-hand part of ‘Organum’ is a transposed and rhythmically augmented from the right-hand part of ‘Toccatina’ (interrupted by the less subtle ‘fleeting reminiscences’). The right-hand part of ‘Ostinato’ is the right-hand part of ‘Organum’, albeit rhythmically distorted, whilst the left hand consists of three similar ostinati derived from the right hand of ‘Organum’. The ‘Finale: Canzona’ is a tribute in form to the canzoni of Frescobaldi, which are somewhat similar to the fugue, but not as strict. Interspersed sporadically throughout is previously heard material, though fragmented and displaced amongst the counterpoint.