Flint Juventino Beppe sees the piano is an orchestra in itself, embodying the ability to portray an impressive range of dynamics and other musical qualities. Op.44 and Op.45, the two piano concertos on this album, might be seen as two very different concertos in mood and style. Nevertheless, they live together as close neighbours on Beppe's list of works.
One can imagine that the three movements in Piano Concerto No.2 'Urge' Op.44 (1999), lyric, dramatic and melodic as they all are, resemble actions that can be associated with different urges in a person’s life.
The piano’s recurring theme opens «See», this piano concerto's effervescent first movement. The piano is the wandering eye, searching everywhere and marvelling at life’s intricacy. The seemingly light and carefree passages are countered by a cautious-sounding wind section. The urge to see feeds the determination to move on, but something in the music suggests the price may be high.
In the second movement, «Catch», the piano has changed course and left the more ethereal realms – indeed the music as a whole, which is now extensively woodwind and brass based, is perhaps more earth-bound than in the first movement. The urge to catch is collateral with the ability to embrace whatever may cross one's path. The distinctive use of unexpected harmonies and the long build-ups for the piano soloist and the orchestra are further examples of Beppe's musical fingerprint.
A more daunting mood prevails in «Push», the third and last movement, in which the piano is constantly balancing between the darkness of the abyss and the light above. The urge to push through a seemingly impenetrable wall inspires the will to move forward, and this drive is tangible throughout the movement. The work is densely orchestrated, yet it has a chamber music feel to it. In the middle sequence of the movement we find yet another example of Beppe's "quasi-cheerful" writing: a seemingly happy, almost dance-like passage, accompanied by powerful warnings in the underlying strata. With a massive orchestral outburst this movement ends as abruptly, and in the same mood, as it started.
In Piano Concerto No.3 'Monster' Op.45(1999), Beppe imagines that a monster is roaming beyond, among and inside someone or something. As always with Beppe's music, titles like this do not mean that the music has a programme or tells a story as, for example, in an opera. The titles simply provide a clue that can challenge the listener's mind-set.
«Beyond», the introvert first movement, performed in a 5/8 time signature, leads us straight into the core of fear. What lies beyond fear? One will never know unless one faces the monster. In an almost jazzy style, the piano communicates the main theme in its interplay with the orchestra throughout the movement.
The second movement, «Among», takes the listener into a sphere that is tranquil and contemplative. It conveys the feeling that harmony and peace can be found even when there is a turbulent inner drama. Between the battles there is sometimes a peculiar calm and clarity, and we are among friends, embraced by nature – a nature that never lets us down. With long melodic lines, Beppe's distinctive style of orchestral harmonization is clearly present in this movement. Careful but effective use of dynamics makes for a mysterious mood, and this leads up to «Inside», the very intense finale of this third piano concerto.
A look inside oneself might be an uncomfortable experience. The fear, the monster – the unknown – can be unleashed. The toughest battles we experience can in fact take place inside our own bodies. With heavy brass and timpani up front, «Inside» illustrates the monster's remorseless struggle against being imprisoned inside someone or something.
About my Grandfather Op.37 (1998) is written in memory of the composer's grandfather Ragnvald Jacobsen (1905-1997), who was given the nickname Beppe by his grandson (and the grandson has now taken the same name himself). He was a semi-professional athlete and had a profound influence on the composer’s childhood and adolescence. This audio recording is also the soundtrack of the art movie MONTAGNA CON FORZA, directed by Beppe.
The work has four movements. «Timeless Legend» is the recognition of a legend, a tribute to the timeless qualities of kindness, strength and elegance. The memories will never be erased, but will be sustained endlessly. The piece is imaginatively orchestrated with several melodic themes, continuously reinforced by the cello's pizzicato figures and the timpani's very recognizable motif.
How can affection be described? «Warm by Heart» perhaps portrays the act of giving and receiving affection. Carefully orchestrated, with a central oboe solo, this piece might be seen as the composer's personal manifesto of a warm heart.
In «Running Laps of Eternity» the listener is tempted to envisage an athlete on the track, perhaps trying to break a record. One can interpret the horns performing stop notes as the counting of the laps, almost urging the athlete to greater efforts! The solo clarinet plays an important role in this virtuoso piece.
Is it possible to feel the presence of a person who has passed away? Some people say they can. What stays forever is the emotional imprint of the joy that was once shared. The gentle legend might still be around, and in «Not Really Gone», the last movement of About my Grandfather Op.37, long lines of distinctive and unusual harmonies from the orchestra's string section, set against the backdrop of polyrhythmic woodwinds and horns, create a celestial feeling that might suggest that a dead person is somehow still among us.
Some people say that the most powerful feeling of all is the love that arises from the heart. It may save you, as in fact it saved Beppe once. A beloved woman is symbolised in «Heart», the last movement from the symphonic poem Theh Goldest Op.27. Written for tubular bells and strings, this piece has also been used as ballet music. Beppe himself says in the liner notes for the sheet music: «Leave the rainfall in peace - no more waiting for nothing, you'll always be there.»
Ragnvald Jacobsen and Flint Juventino Beppe. Photo: Unknown.
Ragnvald Jacobsen. Photo: Unknown.