The Composition

"Nine Pianos" follows the progression of a pianist, from their earliest first steps with the instrument, through to mastery of technique, musicianship and tone. Each part is tailored to be played by a pianist of a different level, from ABRSM Grades 1 to 8. The Narrator part acts as a mentor, musically assisting the more inexperienced players, and partnering those at higher levels of attainment.

The work is composed as theme and variations. It falls into three short movements, the first being an introduction, theme and two variations, and the subsequent slow and fast movements containing three variations each.

In their earlier years, student pianists are often asked to play more tightly-defined compositions in terms of both form and style; as they progress, the repertoire tends to become creatively freer. "Nine Pianos" echoes this in its structure - as the work proceeds, it becomes progressively less formalised and more rhapsodic.

There are relatively few points in the work when all pianos play simultaneously. Instead, they tend to appear in smaller groups or "constellations" of a few pianos at a time, frequently taking advantage of the stage layout to achieve particular stereo effects.

On occasion, the effect of sympathetic resonance is used in the work, which can be seen in the score as pedalling with no notes depressed, or silently depressed notes. Although this will be effective when mechanical instruments are used, it should be noted that these will have no effect with electronic pianos, and can be omitted in these cases.

You can listen to a full performance of "Nine Pianos" here, performed by renowned concert pianist Freddy Kempf.