Concerto in A Major Hurry

by Anton Wills-Eve

<a href=””>In Due Time</a>


The music impressario was never off the phone. The first performance of my third piano concerto was due to be given at the Festival Hall with the London Symphony Orchestra  in three days time and I had not even finished the orchestra’s score to give to the conductor, Sven Gottstein, to start some sort of rehearsals. My mobile went  again and I almost lost my temper,

“Look, Johan, I can either compose in silence with just my piano, or I can throw the whole work out of the window because it cannot be finished with all these interruptions. Okay? Now you have no options at all. I will finish the score for Sven by midnight and he’ll have it in time to print off all the copies he wants and start work on it at noon tomorrow. Tell him I’ll be there to advise him when he asks and to play the solo part. Now go away. Capisce?!”

I don’t think he did understand  but at least he left me alone for the rest of the evening. I was actually doing very well with the first and final movements finished and very much as I wanted them. It was the quiet, lilting melody of the slow second movement that was driving me mad. I almost had a glorious tune in my head, but not quite. The more times I played it over and over the more frustrated I became. It sounded dreadful when I introduced the main theme again, borrowed from the opening bars of the first movement and recurring three times in all during the whole concerto. But it just sounded wrong played at the tempo at which I played it to myself about twenty times.

It was nearing midnight and I just gave up. To hell with my reputation or my career. this would be remembered as the one major work that did not quite come off and I would be slated in the music reviews on Sunday morning. But by now I could not care less. I just printed off everything I had written and put in order before ringing the bell for Jane to come up to the music room on our top floor and ask her to take the music score round to Sven. She looked worried.

“Darling, are you all right? You’ve gone pale and drawn and you look ill. Have you been overworking again?”

“No, just trying to keep to Johan’s stupid deadlines. That’s the best I can do. Tell them I’ll be at the Hall at 1.00pm. Sorry if I sound  short tempered. I had a really good melody going there but it just wouldn’t come out. Still it’s the best I can do in the time.” When she had delivered my manuscript to the temperamental conductor she came back to the flat and curled up on the sofa with me, calming me down and kissing some sort of serenity back into my fevered mind.

“You know I don’t know what I’d do if I ever lost you, Jane. But as long as I have got you I don’t care about my music. You’re the only thing that comes between me, the piano and heaven!”

I actually turned up at the Hall at about half past two and Sven was looking at the end of his tether. Also some of the orchestral musicians looked at me rather oddly as I joined them all. Sven beckoned to me with his curled fingers and said, “Eh, amigo. Come here.Look at wot you ‘ave done. Is this ‘ow you really want this piece to be played? Eh? Really?” I looked down at what had happened, smiled to myself and replied,

“Of course. It is a new concept in the structure of the concerto. Just play the whole orchestral accompaniment to me right through and don’t say a word. And Sven. Let the orchestra play what it feels as well as what you direct. Now do you  begin to understand? Both the conductor and the musicians seemed to realise what I had done as they played the music through in its entirety but without the soloist accompanying them. When they finished they were stunned. Several of them whom I knew well just shook me by the hand, tears in their eyes and even Sven could not resist asking,

“What put such a brilliant idea into your head? I could not believe it at first but I am certain it not only works but will revolutionise the concept of symphonic harmonic structure from now on. I cannot wait to hear it with your piano accompaniment.”

That Sunday the classical music reviews were unanimous. But perhaps Justin Porkington-Cringe of the daily Bugle summed up all his colleagues’ opinions best when he wrote,

“And then, to hold back the beautiful slow andante, with its soft and spell binding melody until the very end, and finish a concerto with just the soft notes of the weeping solo piano as it slowly fell away into the sad ending of a wonderful variation on the main theme, was both a daring and brilliant innovation.”

Jane, doubled up with mirth on the floor of our sitting room as she read this, could not resist pointing out to me that in my haste I had given her the movements in the wrong order and the second movement had been played last. But I explained to her that it was only as I came to play the finale, on the night of the first performance, that the tune fully developed in my mind.

Anton Wills-Eve