Hyperion Records

Piano Concerto No 3 in E flat major
1962; dedicated to John Ogdon who gave the first performance with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra under Joseph Post in June 1964

'Williamson: The Complete Piano Concertos' (CDA68011/2)
Williamson: The Complete Piano Concertos
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Movement 1: Toccata: Allegro
Movement 2: Allegro (Allegretto)
Movement 3: Molto largo e cantando
Movement 4: Ben allegro

Piano Concerto No 3 in E flat major
The Piano Concerto No 3 in E flat major was composed just two years after No 2 and also had its premiere in Australia (in June 1964 by John Ogdon, the dedicatee, and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra conducted by Joseph Post). The work was commissioned by the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australasian Performing Right Association and was later made into the ballet Have steps will travel, which was choreographed for the National Ballet of Canada by John Alleyne and first performed in 1988. The third concerto is the largest—and in many respects the most complex—of Williamson’s piano concertos. He chose to write it in four movements in order to avoid scherzo-like figurations in the outer movements and to balance out the substantial slow movement, which he felt would otherwise ‘up-end its neighbours’.

The thematic material of the entire concerto derives from the interval of a perfect fifth and a selection of the intervallic relationships that fall within this interval. This creates a coherent relationship between each of the movements, helping to fuse together materials of widely disparate styles. The opening Toccata, marked Allegro, is so-named because of its motoric rhythms and the varied types of keyboard touch required of the pianist. It is in the traditional bravura style associated with the form and features two clearly contrasted themes that are in themselves related intervallically. The virtuosic second movement is a brilliant scherzo, marked Allegro (Allegretto), that features unconventional time signatures such as 11/16 and 10/16 and shifting divisions of the bar. In contrast, the slow third movement (Molto largo e cantando) does not stray from its basic 3/2 time signature. It is cast as a set of variations on a gentle cantilena theme played at the outset by the piano, with a cadenza inserted before the final variation. The finale (Ben allegro) is again rhythmically elaborate, but is more obviously melodic and extroverted in character than the first movement, as—in Williamson’s words—‘the piano engages a more buoyant orchestra in a combative dance’.

from notes by Carolyn Philpott © 2014

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