The work was written originally for the pianist, Robert Blocker, to be performed in Mexico City with its orchestra under the direction of Manuel Enriquez in 1995. The untimely death of Mr. Enriquez, unfortunately cancelled that performance. Therefore the performance in Armenia was the work's world premiere. The title refers to a small book of twenty lively cut paper graphics completed by Henri Matisse in 1944. Matisse, himself toyed with another title Circus but ultimately opted for Jazz, even though many of the images recall the music hall. Accompanying the cutouts are short reminiscences and observations in the painter's hand.
I use the title in my concerto, because the piece has a similar "hard edge" placement of disparate elements, not the least of which are real fragments of American jazz from the forties. The titles of the movements, "Boogie," Blues," and "Big Band" also suggest non classical sources, which are woven into developmental structures. The piano cadenza of the first movement uses an arpeggiated version of a chord sequence of the Count Basie tune,"I never knew." This chord sequence is one of the building blocks of the entire rest of the piece, especially the "Big Band" Finale in which the chords comprise the orchestral tutti opening. Similarly, Lester Young's "Little Girl" is introduced as secondary material in the Finale by a solo bass clarinet accompanied by high strings. I had been planning this concerto for a long time; in fact, it was in early planning around the time I was working on the First Piano Concerto in 1985. One of the main ideas of "Matisse-Jazz," a stride passage ala James P. Johnson originally found its way into the coda of Movement I of my Dance Sonata (Piano Sonata No. 2) just as the opening of the Finale of Sonata Brahmsiana became the opening of the Finale of the First Piano Concerto.
The Second Piano Concerto follows the traditional three-movement scheme
with extended cadenzas in the outer movements and short solos in the "Blues" slow
movement. Often the piano is accompanimental to the orchestra, in the manner of
Berlioz's Harold in Italy; yet, there are flashes of virtuosity in the grand romantic manner.
The version of the concerto performed here is the most recent revision of 1997.
Paul Reale is no stranger to the medium of the concerto, with over a half dozen pieces in the medium including two piano concertos, a Violin Concerto, and Columbus Concerto from 1992, for Organ and Wind Ensemble. Piano Concerto No. 2, "Matisse-Jazz" had its world premiere in Yerevan at the end of June, 1996 with the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Jon Robertson and Nina Schumann as soloist.
Reale was born in 1943, in New Jersey. Living close to New York City put him into contact with some of the most interesting and challenging musical minds. A chance meeting with Edgard Varese in 1961 solidified Reale's desire to become a composer, and he became the student of Chou Wen-Chung. After receiving an MA at Columbia University in 1967, he taught theory at the University of Pennsylvania while pursuing the PhD under George Rochberg and George Crumb. Essential to the foundation of a truly eclectic stylistic base were many seminars in the history of theory and musicology. Since 1969 he has taught at UCLA. His music is published by Carl Fischer Inc. and he has five CD's of piano and chamber music under the label of Music & Arts (dist. Koch International). Most recent compositional projects include Ceilidh, a Scottish character piece for string quartet, and Concerto for Three Trumpets and Wind Ensemble, premiered by the UCLA Wind Ensemble under the direction of Thomas Lee in November, 1996.