Gwyneth Walker

Across the Water

for Piano and Orchestra (2011)
(piano reduction [score for two pianos] available)

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Download an MP3 file of a performance of the third movement of this work by Evan Roider, piano and the Holyoke Civic Symphony, David Kidwell, conductor.

Download a PDF file of the solo part of this composition.
Download a PDF file of the full score of this composition. For perusal only -- not printable.

Premiered by the Holyoke Civic Symphony, David Kidwell, music director with Evan Roider, pianist on October 21, 2012 in Holyoke, Massachusetts

Across the Water is a piano concerto based on familiar songs, all with water themes. The intent was to create music with a simple, folk language, yet with the drama and variety inherent to the concerto genre.

One might imagine a pianist sitting alone at the keyboard to enjoy playing a well-loved song. As the playing develops, orchestral instruments surround the soloist. The pianist therefore is able to switch roles, and sometimes accompany the melody as it is played by the orchestra. The first movement is "Peace Like a River." This starts peacefully and quietly, in keeping with the message of the first verse, "I've got peace like a river." However, the growth in the original song, from verse to verse, is translated into the new arrangement. "I've got pain like an arrow" is accented, with increased dynamics and tempi. The third verse, "I've got strength like a mountain" is expressed through block chords (mountains). An interlude leads to "I've got joy like a fountain," which is filled with scalar runs and arpeggios. The final verse is the most boisterous - "I've got determination!"

"I've got peace like a river, strength like a mountain, joy like a my soul."

"Way, Haul Away" is a sea chanty from the British Isles. This is a rowdy song. In this new presentation, the music opens with a minor third in the high range of the solo piano. This is marked "As a Captain's Whistle in the distance." Little tremoli patterns (suggestive of a school of fish) swim by. Strains of the original song are played in the orchestra (interrupted by the fish). And then the actual song begins, energetically, in the solo piano. There is much back-andforth exchange of phrases, in a style similar to how sailors might sing this song, alternating lines with each other.

A middle section (switching from minor to major tonality) is inserted. This might be heard as a hornpipe dance section, to be played by the fife (piccolo). The song theme returns, and the music ends with a quick ascent, up from the bottom of the sea.

"The Water is Wide" is a well-known English song. In this new presentation, the orchestra provides a flowing introduction as waves rocking the boat to and fro. The melody is played by the soloist. The abundance of unaccompanied passages express the freedom and solitude of this song.

The music modulates to "deeper" keys (many flats) as a secondary melody is presented. Eventually, this "brightens" back to the original Eb tonality. Before the theme returns, the piano creates the accompaniment, as large waves surrounding the simple tune. And indeed, the piano never does play the theme. Instead, the opening "rocking of the boat" motives return to bring the music to a close.

Notes by the composer