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The title of Staud’s new work for two pianos and orchestra, Im Lichte, derives from Friedrich Nietzsche’s Ecce Homo and its designation as Musik was deliberately chosen not only to separate his work from the tradition of similarly scored works by the likes of Mozart, Bartók, Poulenc, Messiaen and Berio, but also to create distance between his Musik and implied “tonal” music inherent in titles such as Concerto and Symphony. Nevertheless, it is not the sense of Mozartean “dialogue” that is operative here; rather it is the way Staud sees the two pianos as representing “a single, large instrument, played by a four-handed octopus”, with unisons and various combinations of dialoguing and imitation together at significant points of arrival.
The work is richly scored and calls for a specific seating arrangement: the two pianos with the first violins, viola and a double bass behind and to the left; the second violins, violoncellos and another double bass are seated to the right; a celesta is placed between the two groups of strings and the ensemble is complemented by two flutes, one oboe, two clarinets, saxophone, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, trombone, tuba and four percussionists, among them glockenspiel and Crotales. As Staud says, “there are so many things that can be done with this ensemble which otherwise wouldn’t be possible”.
Although the piece is divided into discrete sections, the boundaries between them are often blurred – indeed, the realisation that the piece has moved on to something different sometimes is not apparent until long after a change has in fact taken place. This is part of Staud’s essential artistic credo: that it is important for a composition to play with the listener’s expectations.
Cliff Eisen (taken from the programme of the world premiere)